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S. G. & E. L. ELBERT 


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by the same author 










W. E. Burghardt Du Bois 




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first edition 


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Ad Virginiam Vitae Salvatorem 

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in 2013 


The story of transplanting millions of Africans to the new world, 
and of their bondage for four centuries, is a fascinating one. Particu- 
larly interesting for students of human culture is the sudden freeing of 
these black folk in the Nineteenth Century and the attempt, through 
them, to reconstruct the basis of American democracy from 1860-1880. 

This book seeks to tell and interpret these twenty years of fateful 
history with especial reference to the efforts and experiences of the 
Negroes themselves. 

For the opportunity of making this study, I have to thank the 
Trustees of the Rosenwald Fund, who made me a grant covering two 
years; the Directors of the National Association for the Advancement 
of Colored People, who allowed me time for the writing; the President 
of Atlanta University, who gave me help and asylum during the com- 
pletion of the work ; and the Trustees of the Carnegie Fund who 
contributed toward the finishing of the manuscript. I need hardly add 
that none of these persons are in any way responsible for the views 
herein expressed. 

It would be only fair to the reader to say frankly in advance that 
the attitude of any person toward this story will be distinctly influ- 
enced by his theories of the Negro race. If he believes that the Negro 
in America and in general is an average and ordinary human being, 
who under given environment develops like other human beings, then 
he will read this story and judge it by the facts adduced. If, however, 
he regards the Negro as a distinctly inferior creation, who can never 
successfully take part in modern civilization and whose emancipation 
and enfranchisement were gestures against nature, then he will need 
something more than the sort of facts that I have set down. But this 
latter person, I am not trying to convince. I am simply pointing out 
these two points of view, so obvious to Americans, and then without 
further ado, I am assuming the truth of the first. In fine, I am going 
to tell this story as though Negroes were ordinary human beings, re- 
alizing that this attitude will from the first seriously curtail my 


Atlanta, December, 1934 


















bibliography 73 1 

index 739 



How black men, coming to America in the sixteenth, seventeenth, 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, became a central thread in 
the history of the United States, at once a challenge to its democ- 
racy and always an important part of its economic history and 

social development 

Easily the most dramatic episode in American history was the sud- 
den move to free four million black slaves in an effort to stop a great 
civil war, to end forty years of bitter controversy, and to appease the 
moral sense of civilization. 

From the day of its birth, the anomaly of slavery plagued a nation 
which asserted the equality of all men, and sought to derive powers 
of government from the consent of the governed. Within sound of 
the voices of those who said this lived more than half a million black 
slaves, forming nearly one-fifth of the population of a new nation. 

The black population at the time of the first census had risen to 
three-quarters of a million, and there were over a million at the begin- 
ning of the nineteenth century. Before 1830, the blacks had passed the 
two million mark, helped by the increased importations just before 
1808, and the illicit smuggling up until 1820. By their own repro- 
duction, the Negroes reached 3,638,808 in 1850, and before the Civil 
War, stood at 4,441,830. They were 10% of the whole population of 
the nation in 1700, 22% in 1750, 18.9% in 1800 and 1.1.6% in 1900. 

These workers were not all black and not all Africans and not all 
slaves. In i860, at least 90% were born in the United States, 13% were 
visibly of white as well as Negro descent and actually more than one- 
fourth were probably of white, Indian and Negro blood. In i860, 11% 
of these dark folk were free workers. 

In origin, the slaves represented everything African, although most 
of them originated on or near the West Coast. Yet among them ap- 
peared the great Bantu tribes from Sierra Leone to South Africa; the 
Sudanese, straight across the center of the continent, from the Atlantic 
to the Valley of the Nile; the Nilotic Negroes and the black and 
brown Hamites, allied with Egypt; the tribes of the great lakes; the 
Pygmies and the Hottentots; and in addition to these, distinct traces 
of both Berber and Arab blood. There is no doubt of the presence of 
all these various elements in the mass of 10,000,000 or more Negroes 



transported from Africa to the various Americas, from the fifteenth 
to the nineteenth centuries. 

Most of them that came to the continent went through West Indian 
tutelage, and thus finally appeared in the United States. They brought 
with them their religion and rhythmic song, and some traces of their 
art and tribal customs. And after a lapse of two and one-half centuries, 
the Negroes became a settled working population, speaking English 
or French, professing Christianity, and used principally in agricultural 
toil. Moreover, they so mingled their blood with white and red Amer- 
ica that today less than 25% of the Negro Americans are of unmixed 
African descent. 

So long as slavery was a matter of race and color, it made the con- 
science of the nation uneasy and continually affronted its ideals. The 
men who wrote the Constitution sought by every evasion, and almost 
by subterfuge, to keep recognition of slavery out of the basic form of 
the new government. They founded their hopes on the prohibition of 
the slave trade, being sure that without continual additions from 
abroad, this tropical people would not long survive, and thus the prob- 
lem of slavery would disappear in death. They miscalculated, or did 
not foresee the changing economic world. It might be more profitable 
in the West Indies to kill the slaves by overwork and import cheap 
Africans; but in America without a slave trade, it paid to conserve 
the slave and let him multiply. When, therefore, manifestly the Ne- 
groes were not dying out, there came quite naturally new excuses and 
explanations. It was a matter of social condition. Gradually these peo- 
ple would be free; but freedom could only come to the bulk as the 
freed were transplanted to their own land and country, since the liv- 
ing together of black and white in America was unthinkable. So again 
the nation waited, and its conscience sank to sleep. 

But in a rich and eager land, wealth and work multiplied. They 
twisted new and intricate patterns around the earth. Slowly but 
mightily these black workers were integrated into modern industry. 
On free and fertile land Americans raised, not simply sugar as a cheap 
sweetening, rice for food and tobacco as a new and tickling luxury; 
but they began to grow a fiber that clothed the masses of a ragged 
world. Cotton grew so swiftly that the 9,000 bales of cotton which the 
new nation scarcely noticed in 1791 became 79,000 in 1800; and with 
this increase, walked economic revolution in a dozen different lines. 
The cotton crop reached one-half million bales in 1822, a million bales 
in 1831, two million in 1840, three million in 1852, and in the year of 
secession, stood at the then enormous total of five million bales. 

Such facts and others, coupled with the increase of the slaves to 
which they were related as both cause and effect, meant a new 


world; and all the more so because with increase in American cotton 
and Negro slaves, came both by chance and ingenuity new miracles 
for manufacturing, and particularly for the spinning and weaving of 

The giant forces of water and of steam were harnessed to do the 
world's work, and the black workers of America bent at the bottom 
of a growing pyramid of commerce and industry; and they not only 
could not be spared, if this new economic organization was to expand, 
but rather they became the cause of new political demands and align- 
ments, of new dreams of power and visions of empire. 

First of all, their work called for widening stretches of new, rich, 
black soil — in Florida, in Louisiana, in Mexico; even in Kansas. This 
land, added to cheap labor, and labor easily regulated and distributed, 
made profits so high that a whole system of culture arose in the South, 
with a new leisure and social philosophy. Black labor became the 
foundation stone not only of the Southern social structure, but of 
Northern manufacture and commerce, of the English factory system, 
of European commerce, of buying and selling on a world-wide scale; 
new cities were built on the results of black labor, and a new labor 
problem, involving all white labor, arose both in Europe and America. 

Thus, the old difficulties and paradoxes appeared in new dress. It 
became easy to say and easier to prove that these black men were not 
men in the sense that white men were, and could never be, in the 
same sense, free. Their slavery was a matter of both race and social 
condition, but the condition was limited and determined by race. They 
were congenital wards and children, to be well-treated and cared for, 
but far happier and safer here than in their own land. As the Rich- 
mond, Virginia, Examiner put it in 1854: 

"Let us not bother our brains about what Providence intends to do 
with our Negroes in the distant future, but glory in and profit to the 
utmost by what He has done for them in transplanting them here, 
and setting them to work on our plantations. . . . True philanthropy 
to the Negro, begins, like charity, at home; and if Southern men 
would act as if the canopy of heaven were inscribed with a covenant, 
in letters of fire, that the Negro is here, and here forever; is our prop- 
erty, and ours forever; . . . they would accomplish more good for the 
race in five years than they boast the institution itself to have accom- 
plished in two centuries. . . ." 

On the other hand, the growing exploitation of white labor in 
Europe, the rise of the factory system, the increased monopoly of land, 
and the problem of the distribution of political power, began to send 
wave after wave of immigrants to America, looking for new freedom, 
new opportunity and new democracy. 


The opportunity for real and new democracy in America was broad. 
Political power at first was, as usual, confined to property holders and 
an aristocracy of birth and learning. But it was never securely based 
on land. Land was free and both land and property were possible to 
nearly every thrifty worker. Schools began early to multiply and open 
their doors even to the poor laborer. Birth began to count for less and 
less and America became to the world a land of economic opportu- 
nity. So the world came to America, even before the Revolution, and 
afterwards during the nineteenth century, nineteen million immi- 
grants entered the United States. 

When we compare these figures with the cotton crop and the in- 
crease of black workers, we see how the economic problem increased 
in intricacy. This intricacy is shown by the persons in the drama and 
their differing and opposing interests. There were the native-born 
Americans, largely of English descent, who were the property holders 
and employers; and even so far as they were poor, they looked for- 
ward to the time when they would accumulate capital and become, as 
they put it, economically "independent." Then there were the new 
immigrants, torn with a certain violence from their older social and 
economic surroundings; strangers in a new land, with visions of rising 
in the social and economic world by means of labor. They differed in 
language and social status, varying from the half-starved Irish peasant 
to the educated German and English artisan. There were the free 
Negroes: those of the North free in some cases for many generations, 
and voters; and in other cases, fugitives, new come from the South, 
with little skill and small knowledge of life and labor in their new 
environment. There were the free Negroes of the South, an unstable, 
harried class, living on sufferance of the law, and the good will of 
white patrons, and yet rising to be workers and sometimes owners of 
property and even of slaves, and cultured citizens. There was the great 
mass of poor whites, disinherited of their economic portion by com- 
petition with the slave system, and land monopoly. 

In the earlier history of the South, free Negroes had the right to 
vote. Indeed, so far as the letter of the law was concerned, there was 
not a single Southern colony in which a black man who owned the 
requisite amount of property, and complied with other conditions, did 
not at some period have the legal right to vote. 

Negroes voted in Virginia as late as 1723, when the assembly 
enacted that no free Negro, mulatto or Indian "shall hereafter have 
any vote at the elections of burgesses or any election whatsoever." In 
North Carolina, by the Act of 1734, a former discrimination against 
Negro voters was laid aside and not reenacted until 1835. 

A complaint in South Carolina, in 1701, said: 


"Several free Negroes were receiv'd, & taken for as good Electors as 
the best Freeholders in the Province. So that we leave it with Your 
Lordships to judge whether admitting Aliens, Strangers, Servants, 
Negroes, &c, as good and qualified Voters, can be thought any ways 
agreeable to King Charles' Patent to Your Lordships, or the English 
Constitution of Government." Again in 1716, Jews and Negroes, who 
had been voting, were expressly excluded. In Georgia, there was at 
first no color discrimination, although only owners of fifty acres of 
land could vote. In 1761, voting was expressly confined to white men. 1 

In the states carved out of the Southwest, they were disfranchised 
as soon as the state came into the Union, although in Kentucky they 
voted between 1792 and 1799, and Tennessee allowed free Negroes to 
vote in her constitution of 1796. 

In North Carolina, where even disfranchisement, in 1835, did not 
apply to Negroes who already had the right to vote, it was said that 
the several hundred Negroes who had been voting before then usu- 
ally voted prudently and judiciously. 

In Delaware and Maryland they voted in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century. In Louisiana, Negroes who had had the right to 
vote during territorial status were not disfranchised. 

To sum up, in colonial times, the free Negro was excluded from the 
suffrage only in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. In the Border 
States, Delaware disfranchised the Negro in 1792; Maryland in 1783 
and 1810. 

In the Southeast, Florida disfranchised Negroes in 1845; and in the 
Southwest, Louisiana disfranchised them in 1812; Mississippi in 1817; 
Alabama in 1819; Missouri, 1821; Arkansas in 1836; Texas, 1845. 
Georgia in her constitution of 1777 confined voters to white males; 
but this was omitted in the constitutions of 1789 and 1798. 

As slavery grew to a system and the Cotton Kingdom began to 
expand into imperial white domination, a free Negro was a contra- 
diction, a threat and a menace. As a thief and a vagabond, he threat- 
ened society; but as an educated property holder, a successful mechanic 
or even professional man, he more than threatened slavery. He con- 
tradicted and undermined it. He must not be. He must be suppressed, 
enslaved, colonized. And nothing so bad could be said about him that 
did not easily appear as true to slaveholders. 

In the North, Negroes, for the most part, received political en- 
franchisement with the white laboring classes. In 1778, the Congress 
of the Confederation twice refused to insert the word "white" in the 
Articles of Confederation in asserting that free inhabitants in each 
state should be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of free 
citizens of the several states. In the law of 1783, free Negroes were 


recognized as a basis of taxation, and in 1784, they were recognized as 
voters in the territories. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, "free 
male inhabitants of full age" were recognized as voters. 

The few Negroes that were in Maine, New Hampshire and Ver- 
mont could vote if they had the property qualifications. In Connecti- 
cut they were disfranchised in 1814; in 1865 this restriction was re- 
tained, and Negroes did not regain the right until after the Civil War. 
In New Jersey, they were disfranchised in 1807, but regained the right 
in 1820 and lost it again in 1847. Negroes voted in New York in the 
eighteenth century, then were disfranchised, but in 1821 were permit- 
ted to vote with a discriminatory property qualification of $250. No 
property qualification was required of whites. Attempts were made at 
various times to remove this qualification but it was not removed 
until 1870. In Rhode Island they were disfranchised in the constitution 
which followed Dorr's Rebellion, but finally allowed to vote in 
1842. In Pennsylvania, they were allowed to vote until 1838 when the 
"reform" convention restricted the suffrage to whites. 

The Western States as territories did not usually restrict the suffrage, 
but as they were admitted to the Union they disfranchised the Ne- 
groes: Ohio in 1803; Indiana in 1816; Illinois in 1818; Michigan in 
1837; Iowa in 1846; Wisconsin in 1848; Minnesota in 1858; and Kansas 
in 1861. 

The Northwest Ordinance and even the Louisiana Purchase had 
made no color discrimination in legal and political rights. But the 
states admitted from this territory, specifically and from the first, de- 
nied free black men the right to vote and passed codes of black laws 
in Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, instigated largely by the attitude and 
fears of the immigrant poor whites from the South. Thus, at first, in 
Kansas and the West, the problem of the black worker was narrow 
and specific. Neither the North nor the West asked that black labor 
in the United States be free and enfranchised. On the contrary, they 
accepted slave labor as a fact; but they were determined that it should 
be territorially restricted, and should not compete with free white 

What was this industrial system for which the South fought and 
risked life, reputation and wealth and which a growing element in 
the North viewed first with hesitating tolerance, then with distaste 
and finally with economic fear and moral horror? What did it mean 
to be a slave? It is hard to imagine it today. We think of oppression 
beyond all conception: cruelty, degradation, whipping and starvation, 
the absolute negation of human rights; or on the contrary, we may 
think of the ordinary worker the world over today, slaving ten, 
twelve, or fourteen hours a day, with not enough to eat, compelled by 


his physical necessities to do this and not to do that, curtailed in his 
movements and his possibilities; and we say, here, too, is a slave 
called a "free worker," and slavery is merely a matter of name. 

But there was in 1863 a real meaning to slavery different from that 
we may apply to the laborer today. It was in part psychological, the 
enforced personal feeling of inferiority, the calling of another Master; 
the standing with hat in hand. It was the helplessness. It was the de- 
fenselessness of family life. It was the submergence below the arbitrary 
will of any sort of individual. It was without doubt worse in these 
vital respects than that which exists today in Europe or America. Its 
analogue today is the yellow, brown and black laborer in China and 
India, in Africa, in the forests of the Amazon; and it was this slavery 
that fell in America. 

The slavery of Negroes in the South was not usually a deliberately 
cruel and oppressive system. It did not mean systematic starvation or 
murder. On the other hand, it is just as difficult to conceive as quite 
true the idyllic picture of a patriarchal state with cultured and humane 
masters under whom slaves were as children, guided and trained in 
work and play, given even such mental training as was for their good, 
and for the well-being of the surrounding world. 

The victims of Southern slavery were often happy; had usually ade- 
quate food for their health, and shelter sufficient for a mild climate. 
The Southerners could say with some justification that when the mass 
of their field hands were compared with the worst class of laborers in 
the slums of New York and Philadelphia, and the factory towns of 
New England, the black slaves were as well off and in some particu- 
lars better off. Slaves lived largely in the country where health condi- 
tions were better; they worked in the open air, and their hours were 
about the current hours for peasants throughout Europe. They re- 
ceived no formal education, and neither did the Irish peasant, the 
English factory-laborer, nor the German Bauer; and in contrast with 
these free white laborers, the Negroes were protected by a certain 
primitive sort of old-age pension, job insurance, and sickness insur- 
ance; that is, they must be supported in some fashion, when they were 
too old to work; they must have attention in sickness, for they repre- 
sented invested capital; and they could never be among the unem- 

On the other hand, it is just as true that Negro slaves in America 
represented the worst and lowest conditions among modern laborers. 
One estimate is that the maintenance of a slave in the South cost the 
master about $19 a year, which means that they were among the poor- 
est paid laborers in the modern world. They represented in a very real 
sense the ultimate degradation of man. Indeed, the system was so re- 



actionary, so utterly inconsistent with modern progress, that we simply 
cannot grasp it today. No matter how degraded the factory hand, he 
is not real estate. The tragedy of the black slave's position was pre- 
cisely this; his absolute subjection to the individual will of an owner 
and to "the cruelty and injustice which are the invariable consequences 
of the exercise of irresponsible power, especially where authority must 
be sometimes delegated by the planter to agents of inferior education 
and coarser feelings." 

The proof of this lies clearly written in the slave codes. Slaves were 
not considered men. They had no right of petition. They were "de- 
visable like any other chattel." They could own nothing; they could 
make no contracts; they could hold no property, nor traffic in prop- 
erty; they could not hire out; they could not legally marry nor con- 
stitute families; they could not control their children; they could not 
appeal from their master; they could be punished at will. They could 
not testify in court; they could be imprisoned by their owners, and 
the criminal offense of assault and battery could not be committed on 
the person of a slave. The "willful, malicious and deliberate murder" 
of a slave was punishable by death, but such a crime was practically 
impossible of proof. The slave owed to his master and all his family 
a respect "without bounds, and an absolute obedience." This author- 
ity could be transmitted to others. A slave could not sue his master; 
had no right of redemption; no right to education or religion; a 
promise made to a slave by his master had no force nor validity. Chil- 
dren followed the condition of the slave mother. The slave could have 
no access to the judiciary. A slave might be condemned to death for 
striking any white person. 

Looking at these accounts, "it is safe to say that the law regards a 
Negro slave, so far as his civil status is concerned, purely and abso- 
lutely property, to be bought and sold and pass and descend as a tract 
of land, a horse, or an ox." 2 

The whole legal status of slavery was enunciated in the extraordi- 
nary statement of a Chief Justice of the United States that Negroes 
had always been regarded in America "as having no rights which a 
white man was bound to respect." 

It may be said with truth that the law was often harsher than the 
practice. Nevertheless, these laws and decisions represent the legally 
permissible possibilities, and the only curb upon the power of the 
master was his sense of humanity and decency, on the one hand, 
and the conserving of his investment on the other. Of the humanity 
of large numbers of Southern masters there can be no doubt. In some 
cases, they gave their slaves a fatherly care. And yet even in such cases 
the strain upon their ability to care for large numbers of people and 


the necessity of entrusting the care of the slaves to other hands than 
their own, led to much suffering and cruelty. 

The matter of his investment in land and slaves greatly curtailed 
the owner's freedom of action. Under the competition of growing in- 
dustrial organization, the slave system was indeed the source of im- 
mense profits. But for the slave owner and landlord to keep a 
large or even reasonable share of these profits was increasingly dif- 
ficult. The price of the slave produce in the open market could be 
hammered down by merchants and traders acting with knowledge 
and collusion. And the slave owner was, therefore, continually forced 
to find his profit not in the high price of cotton and sugar, but in 
beating even further down the cost of his slave labor. This made the 
slave owners in early days kill the slave by overwork and renew their 
working stock; it led to the widely organized interstate slave trade 
between the Border States and the Cotton Kingdom of the Southern 
South; it led to neglect and the breaking up of families, and it could 
not protect the slave against the cruelty, lust and neglect of certain 

Thus human slavery in the South pointed and led in two singu- 
larly contradictory and paradoxical directions — toward the deliberate 
commercial breeding and sale of human labor for profit and toward 
the intermingling of black and white blood. The slaveholders shrank 
from acknowledging either set of facts but they were clear and un- 

In this vital respect, the slave laborer differed from all others of his 
day: he could be sold; he could, at the will of a single individual, be 
transferred for life a thousand miles or more. His family, wife and 
children could be legally and absolutely taken from him. Free labor- 
ers today are compelled to wander in search for work and food; their 
families are deserted for want of wages; but in all this there is no such 
direct barter in human flesh. It was a sharp accentuation of control 
over men beyond the modern labor reserve or the contract coolie sys- 

Negroes could be sold — actually sold as we sell cattle with no refer- 
ence to calves or bulls, or recognition of family. It was a nasty busi- 
ness. The white South was properly ashamed of it and continually 
belittled and almost denied it. But it was a stark and bitter fact. South- 
ern papers of the Border States were filled with advertisements: — "I 
wish to purchase fifty Negroes of both sexes from 6 to 30 years of age 
for which I will give the highest cash prices." 

"Wanted to purchase — Negroes of every description, age and sex." 

The consequent disruption of families is proven beyond doubt: 

"Fifty Dollars reward. — Ran away from the subscriber, a Negro 


girl, named Maria. She is of a copper color, between 13 and 14 years 
of age — bareheaded and barefooted. She is small for her age — very 
sprightly and very likely. She stated she was going to see her mother 
at Maysville. Sanford Tomson." 

"Committed to jail of Madison County, a Negro woman, who calls 
her name Fanny, and says she belongs to William Miller, of Mobile. 
She formerly belonged to John Givins, of this county, who now owns 
several of her children. David Shropshire, Jailer." 

"Fifty Dollar reward. — Ran away from the subscriber, his Negro 
man Pauladore, commonly called Paul. I understand Gen. R. Y. 
Hayne has purchased his wife and children from H. L. Pinckney, 
Esq., and has them on his plantation at Goosecreek, where, no doubt, 
the fellow is frequently lurking. T. Davis." One can see Pauladore 
"lurking" about his wife and children. 3 

The system of slavery demanded a special police force and such a 
force was made possible and unusually effective by the presence of 
the poor whites. This explains the difference between the slave revolts 
in the West Indies, and the lack of effective revolt in the Southern 
United States. In the West Indies, the power over the slave was held 
by the whites and carried out by them and such Negroes as they could 
trust. In the South, on the other hand, the great planters formed pro- 
portionately quite as small a class but they had singularly enough at 
their command some five million poor whites; that is, there were 
actually more white people to police the slaves than there were slaves. 
Considering the economic rivalry of the black and white worker in 
the North, it would have seemed natural that the poor white would 
have refused to police the slaves. But two considerations led him in 
the opposite direction. First of all, it gave him work and some au- 
thority as overseer, slave driver, and member of the patrol system. But 
above and beyond this, it fed his vanity because it associated him with 
the masters. Slavery bred in the poor white a dislike of Negro toil of 
all sorts. He never regarded himself as a laborer, or as part of any 
labor movement. If he had any ambition at all it was to become a 
planter and to own "niggers." To these Negroes he transferred all the 
dislike and hatred which he had for the whole slave system. The re- 
sult was that the system was held stable and intact by the poor white. 
Even with the late ruin of Haiti before their eyes, the planters, stirred 
as they were, were nevertheless able to stamp out slave revolt. The 
dozen revolts of the eighteenth century had dwindled to the plot of 
Gabriel in 1800, Vesey in 1822, of Nat Turner in 1831 and crews of 
the Amistad and Creole in 1839 and 1841. Gradually the whole white 
South became an armed and commissioned camp to keep Negroes in 
slavery and to kill the black rebel. 


But even the poor white, led by the planter, would not have kept 
the black slave in nearly so complete control had it not been for what 
may be called the Safety Valve of Slavery; and that was the chance 
which a vigorous and determined slave had to run away to freedom. 

Under the situation as it developed between 1830 and i860 there 
were grave losses to the capital invested in black workers. Encouraged 
by the idealism of those Northern thinkers who insisted that Negroes 
were human, the black worker sought freedom by running away from 
slavery. The physical geography of America with its paths north, by 
swamp, river and mountain range; the daring of black revolutionists 
like Henson and Tubman; and the extra-legal efforts of abolitionists 
made this more and more easy. 

One cannot know the real facts concerning the number of fugitives, 
but despite the fear of advertising the losses, the emphasis put upon 
fugitive slaves by the South shows that it was an important economic 
item. It is certain from the bitter effort to increase the efficiency of 
the fugitive slave law that the losses from runaways were widespread 
and continuous; and the increase in the interstate slave trade from 
Border States to the deep South, together with the increase in the price 
of slaves, showed a growing pressure. At the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, one bought an average slave for $200; while in i860 
the price ranged from $1,400 to $2,000. 

Not only was the fugitive slave important because of the actual loss 
involved, but for potentialities in the future. These free Negroes were 
furnishing a leadership for the mass of the black workers, and espe- 
cially they were furnishing a text for the abolition idealists. Fugitive 
slaves, like Frederick Douglass and others humbler and less gifted, 
increased the number of abolitionists by thousands and spelled the 
doom of slavery. 

The true significance of slavery in the United States to the whole 
social development of America lay in the ultimate relation of slaves 
to democracy. What were to be the limits of democratic control in 
the United States? If all labor, black as well as white, became free — 
were given schools and the right to vote — what control could or should 
be set to the power and action of these laborers? Was the rule of the 
mass of Americans to be unlimited, and the right to rule extended to 
all men regardless of race and color, or if not, what power of dictator- 
ship and control; and how would property and privilege be protected? 
This was the great and primary question which was in the minds of 
the men who wrote the Constitution of the United States and contin- 
ued in the minds of thinkers down through the slavery controversy. 
It still remains with the world as the problem of democracy expands 
and touches all races and nations. 


And of all human development, ancient and modern, not the least 
singular and significant is the philosophy of life and action which 
slavery bred in the souls of black folk. In most respects its expression 
was stilted and confused; the rolling periods of Hebrew prophecy and 
biblical legend furnished inaccurate but splendid words. The subtle 
folk-lore of Africa, with whimsy and parable, veiled wish and wisdom; 
and above all fell the anointing chrism of the slave music, the only gift 
of pure art in America. 

Beneath the Veil lay right and wrong, vengeance and love, and 
sometimes throwing aside the veil, a soul of sweet Beauty and Truth 
stood revealed. Nothing else of art or religion did the slave South give 
to the world, except the Negro song and story. And even after slavery, 
down to our day, it has added but little to this gift. One has but to 
remember as symbol of it all, still unspoiled by petty artisans, the 
legend of John Henry, the mighty black, who broke his heart working 
against the machine, and died "with his Hammer in His Hand." 

Up from this slavery gradually climbed the Free Negro with clearer, 
modern expression and more definite aim long before the emancipa- 
tion of 1863. His greatest effort lay in his cooperation with the Aboli- 
tion movement. He knew he was not free until all Negroes were free. 
Individual Negroes became exhibits of the possibilities of the Negro 
race, if once it was raised above the status of slavery. Even when, as 
so often, the Negro became Court Jester to the ignorant American 
mob, he made his plea in his songs and antics. 

Thus spoke "the noblest slave that ever God set free," Frederick 
Douglass in 1852, in his 4th of July oration at Rochester, voicing the 
frank and fearless criticism of the black worker: 

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day 
that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross 
injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your 
celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your 
national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty 
and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; 
your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and 
hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious 
parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, 
impiety and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would 
disgrace a nation of savages. . . . 

"You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and 
your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation 
(as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged 
to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your 
countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crown-headed tyrants 


of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your democratic insti- 
tutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body- 
guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your 
shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, 
greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect 
them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives 
from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You 
glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you main- 
tain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character 
of a nation — a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and per- 
petuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make 
the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and 
orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her 
cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs 
of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and 
would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those 
wrongs the subject of public discourse!" 4 

Above all, we must remember the black worker was the ultimate 
exploited; that he formed that mass of labor which had neither wish 
nor power to escape from the labor status, in order to directly exploit 
other laborers, or indirectly, by alliance with capital, to share in their 
exploitation. To be sure, the black mass, developed again and again, 
here and there, capitalistic groups in New Orleans, in Charleston and 
in Philadelphia; groups willing to join white capital in exploiting 
labor; but they were driven back into the mass by racial prejudice 
before they had reached a permanent foothold; and thus became all 
the more bitter against all organization which by means of race preju- 
dice, or the monopoly of wealth, sought to exclude men from mak- 
ing a living. 

It was thus the black worker, as founding stone of a new economic 
system in the nineteenth century and for the modern world, who 
brought civil war in America. He was its underlying cause, in spite 
of every effort to base the strife upon union and national power. 

That dark and vast sea of human labor in China and India, the 
South Seas and all Africa; in the West Indies and Central America 
and in the United States — that great majority of mankind, on whose 
bent and broken backs rest today the founding stones of modern 
industry — shares a common destiny; it is despised and rejected by 
race and color; paid a wage below the level of decent living; driven, 
beaten, prisoned and enslaved in all but name; spawning the world's 
raw material and luxury — cotton, wool, coffee, tea, cocoa, palm oil, 
fibers, spices, rubber, silks, lumber, copper, gold, diamonds, leather — 
how shall we end the list and where? All these are gathered up at 


prices lowest of the low, manufactured, transformed and transported 
at fabulous gain; and the resultant wealth is distributed and displayed 
and made the basis of world power and universal dominion and 
armed arrogance in London and Paris, Berlin and Rome, New York 
and Rio de Janeiro. 

Here is the real modern labor problem. Here is the kernel of the 
problem of Religion and Democracy, of Humanity. Words and futile 
gestures avail nothing. Out of the exploitation of the dark proletariat 
comes the Surplus Value filched from human beasts which, in cultured 
lands, the Machine and harnessed Power veil and conceal. The eman- 
cipation of man is the emancipation of labor and the emancipation of 
labor is the freeing of that basic majority of workers who are yellow, 
brown and black. 

Dark, shackled knights of labor, clinging still 
Amidst a universal wreck of faith 
To cheerfulness, and foreigners to hate. 
These know ye not, these have ye not received, 
But these shall speak to you Beatitudes. 
Around them surge the tides of all your strife, 
Above them rise the august monuments 
Of all your outward splendor, but they stand 
Unenvious in thought, and bide their time. 

Leslie P. Hill 

i. Compare A. E. McKinley, The Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English Colonies 
in America, p. 137. 

2. A Picture of Slavery Drawn from the Decisions of Southern Courts, p. 5. 

3. Compare Bancroft, Slave-Trading in the Old South; Weld, American Slavery as It Is. 

4. Woodson, Negro Orators and Their Orations, pp. 218-19. 


How America became the laborer's Promised Land; and flocking 
here from all the world the white workers competed with black 
slaves, with new floods of foreigners, and with growing exploita- 
tion, until they fought slavery to save democracy and then lost 
democracy in a new and vaster slavery 

The opportunity for real and new democracy in America was broad. 
Political power was at first as usual confined to property holders and 
an aristocracy of birth and learning. But it was never securely based 
on land. Land was free and both land and property were possible to 
nearly every thrifty worker. Schools began early to multiply and open 
their doors even to the poor laborer. Birth began to count for less and 
less and America became to the world a land of opportunity. So the 
world came to America, even before the Revolution, and afterward 
during the nineteenth century, nineteen million immigrants entered 
the United States. 

The new labor that came to the United States, while it was poor, 
used to oppression and accustomed to a low standard of living, was 
not willing, after it reached America, to regard itself as a permanent 
laboring class and it is in the light of this fact that the labor move- 
ment among white Americans must be studied. The successful, well- 
paid American laboring class formed, because of its property and 
ideals, a petty bourgeoisie ready always to join capital in exploiting 
common labor, white and black, foreign and native. The more ener- 
getic and thrifty among the immigrants caught the prevalent Ameri- 
can idea that here labor could become emancipated from the necessity 
of continuous toil and that an increasing proportion could join the 
class of exploiters, that is of those who made their income chiefly by 
profit derived through the hiring of labor. 

Abraham Lincoln expressed this idea frankly at Hartford, in March, 
i860. He said: 

"I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago I was a 
hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat boat — just what might 
happen to any poor man's son." Then followed the characteristic phi- 
losophy of the time: "I want every man to have his chance — and I be- 
lieve a black man is entitled to it — in which he can better his condi- 
tion — when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this 



year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire 
men to work for him. That is the true system." 

He was enunciating the widespread American idea of the son rising 
to a higher economic level than the father; of the chance for the poor 
man to accumulate wealth and power, which made the European 
doctrine of a working class fighting for the elevation of all workers 
seem not only less desirable but even less possible for average workers 
than they had formerly considered it. 

These workers came to oppose slavery not so much from moral as 
from the economic fear of being reduced by competition to the level 
of slaves. They wanted a chance to become capitalists; and they found 
that chance threatened by the competition of a working class whose 
status at the bottom of the economic structure seemed permanent and 
inescapable. At first, black slavery jarred upon them, and as early as the 
seventeenth century German immigrants to Pennsylvania asked the 
Quakers innocently if slavery was in accord with the Golden Rule. 
Then, gradually, as succeeding immigrants were thrown in difficult 
and exasperating competition with black workers, their attitude 
changed. These were the very years when the white worker was begin- 
ning to understand the early American doctrine of wealth and prop- 
erty; to escape the liability of imprisonment for debt, and even to gain 
the right of universal suffrage. He found pouring into cities like New 
York and Philadelphia emancipated Negroes with low standards of 
living, competing for the jobs which the lower class of unskilled white 
laborers wanted. 

For the immediate available jobs, the Irish particularly competed 
and the employers because of race antipathy and sympathy with the 
South did not wish to increase the number of Negro workers, so long 
as the foreigners worked just as cheaply. The foreigners in turn 
blamed blacks for the cheap price of labor. The result was race war; 
riots took place which were at first simply the flaming hostility of 
groups of laborers fighting for bread and butter; then they turned 
into race riots. For three days in Cincinnati in 1829, a mob of whites 
wounded and killed free Negroes and fugitive slaves and destroyed 
property. Most of the black population, numbering over two thousand, 
left the city and trekked to Canada. In Philadelphia, 1 828-1 840, a series 
of riots took place which thereafter extended until after the Civil War. 
The riot of 1834 took the dimensions of a pitched battle and lasted 
for three days. Thirty-one houses and two churches were destroyed. 
Other riots took place in 1835 and 1838 and a two days' riot in 1842 
caused the calling out of the militia with artillery. 

In the forties came quite a different class, the English and German 
workers, who had tried by organization to fight the machine and in 


the end had to some degree envisaged the Marxian reorganization of 
industry through trade unions and class struggle. The attitude of these 
people toward the Negro was varied and contradictory. At first they 
blurted out their disapprobation of slavery on principle. It was a phase 
of all wage slavery. Then they began to see a way out for the worker 
in America through the free land of the West. Here was a solution 
such as was impossible in Europe : plenty of land, rich land, land com- 
ing daily nearer its own markets, to which the worker could retreat 
and restore the industrial balance ruined in Europe by the expropria- 
tion of the worker from the soil. Or in other words, the worker in 
America saw a chance to increase his wage and regulate his conditions 
of employment much greater than in Europe. The trade unions could 
have a material backing that they could not have in Germany, France 
or England. This thought, curiously enough, instead of increasing the 
sympathy for the slave turned it directly into rivalry and enmity. 

The wisest of the leaders could not clearly envisage just how slave 
labor in conjunction and competition with free labor tended to reduce 
all labor toward slavery. For this reason, the union and labor leaders 
gravitated toward the political party which opposed tariff bounties 
and welcomed immigrants, quite forgetting that this same Democratic 
party had as its backbone the planter oligarchy of the South with its 
slave labor. 

The new immigrants in their competition with this group reflected 
not simply the general attitude of America toward colored people, but 
particularly they felt a threat of slave competition which these Ne- 
groes foreshadowed. The Negroes worked cheaply, partly from cus- 
tom, partly as their only defense against competition. The white la- 
borers realized that Negroes were part of a group of millions of work- 
ers who were slaves by law, and whose competition kept white labor 
out of the work of the South and threatened its wages and stability 
in the North. When now the labor question moved West, and became 
a part of the land question, the competition of black men became of 
increased importance. Foreign laborers saw more clearly than most 
Americans the tremendous significance of free land in abundance, 
such as America possessed, in open contrast to the land monopoly of 
Europe. But here on this free land, they met not only a few free Ne- 
gro workers, but the threat of a mass of slaves. The attitude of the 
West toward Negroes, therefore, became sterner than that of the East. 
Here was the possibility of direct competition with slaves, and the 
absorption of Western land into the slave system. This must be re- 
sisted at all costs, but beyond this, even free Negroes must be discour- 
aged. On this the Southern poor white immigrants insisted. 

In the meantime, the problem of the black worker had not ceased 


to trouble the conscience and the economic philosophy of America. 
That the worker should be a bond slave was fundamentally at variance 
with the American doctrine, and the demand for the abolition of 
slavery had been continuous since the Revolution. In the North, it had 
resulted in freeing gradually all of the Negroes. But the comparatively 
small number of those thus freed was being augmented now by 
fugitive slaves from the South, and manifestly the ultimate plight 
of the black worker depended upon the course of Southern slavery. 
There arose, then, in the thirties, and among thinkers and workers, 
a demand that slavery in the United States be immediately abolished. 

This demand became epitomized in the crusade of William Lloyd 
Garrison, himself a poor printer, but a man of education, thought and 
indomitable courage. This movement was not primarily a labor move- 
ment or a matter of profit and wage. It simply said that under any 
condition of life, the reduction of a human being to real estate was a 
crime against humanity of such enormity that its existence must be 
immediately ended. After emancipation there would come questions 
of labor, wage and political power. But now, first, must be demanded 
that ordinary human freedom and recognition of essential manhood 
which slavery blasphemously denied. This philosophy of freedom was 
a logical continuation of the freedom philosophy of the eighteenth 
century which insisted that Freedom was not an End but an indis- 
pensable means to the beginning of human progress and that democ- 
racy could function only after the dropping of feudal privileges, 
monopoly and chains. 

The propaganda which made the abolition movement terribly real 
was the Fugitive Slave — the piece of intelligent humanity who could 
say: I have been owned like an ox. I stole my own body and now I 
am hunted by law and lash to be made an ox again. By no conception 
of justice could such logic be answered. Nevertheless, at the same time 
white labor, while it attempted no denial but even expressed faint 
sympathy, saw in this fugitive slave and in the millions of slaves be- 
hind him, willing and eager to work for less than current wage, com- 
petition for their own jobs. What they failed to comprehend was that 
the black man enslaved was an even more formidable and fatal com- 
petitor than the black man free. 

Here, then, were two labor movements: the movement to give the 
black worker a minimum legal status which would enable him to sell 
his own labor, and another movement which proposed to increase 
the wage and better the condition of the working class in America, 
now largely composed of foreign immigrants, and dispute with the 
new American capitalism the basis upon which the new wealth was 
to be divided. Broad philanthropy and a wide knowledge of the ele- 


ments of human progress would have led these two movements to 
unite and in their union to become irresistible. It was difficult, almost 
impossible, for this to be clear to the white labor leaders of the 
thirties. They had their particularistic grievances and one of these 
was the competition of free Negro labor. Beyond this they could easily 
vision a new and tremendous competition of black workers after all 
the slaves became free. What they did not see nor understand was 
that this competition was present and would continue and would be 
emphasized if the Negro continued as a slave worker. On the other 
hand, the Abolitionists did not realize the plight of the white laborer, 
especially the semi-skilled and unskilled worker. 

While the Evans brothers, who came as labor agitators in 1825, had 
among their twelve demands "the abolition of chattel slavery," never- 
theless, George was soon convinced that freedom without land was 
of no importance. He wrote to Gerrit Smith, who was giving land to 
Negroes, and said: 

"I was formerly, like yourself, sir, a very warm advocate of the 
abolition of slavery. This was before I saw that there was white slav- 
ery. Since I saw this, I have materially changed my views as to the 
means of abolishing Negro slavery. I now see, clearly, I think, that 
to give the landless black the privilege of changing masters now pos- 
sessed by the landless white would hardly be a benefit to him in ex- 
change for his surety of support in sickness and old age, although he 
is in a favorable climate. If the Southern form of slavery existed at the 
North, I should say the black would be a great loser by such a 
change." 1 

At the convention of the New England anti-slavery society in 1845, 
Robert Owen, the great champion of cooperation, said he was opposed 
to Negro slavery, but that he had seen worse slavery in England than 
among the Negroes. Horace Greeley said the same year: "If I am less 
troubled concerning the slavery prevalent in Charleston or New 
Orleans, it is because I see so much slavery in New York which 
appears to claim my first efforts." 

Thus despite all influences, reform and social uplift veered away 
from the Negro. Brisbane, Channing, Owen and other leaders called 
a National Reform Association to meet in New York in May, 1845. 
In October, Owen's "World Conference" met. But they hardly men- 
tioned slavery. The Abolitionists did join a National Industrial Con- 
gress which met around 1 845-1 846. Other labor leaders were openly 
hostile toward the abolitionist movement, while the movement for 
free land increased. 

Thus two movements— Labor-Free Soil, and Abolition, exhibited 
fundamental divergence instead of becoming one great party of free 


labor and free land. The Free Soilers stressed the difficulties of even 
the free laborer getting hold of the land and getting work in the great 
congestion which immigration had brought; and the abolitionists 
stressed the moral wrong of slavery. These two movements might 
easily have cooperated and differed only in matters of emphasis; but 
the trouble was that black and white laborers were competing for 
the same jobs just of course as all laborers always are. The immediate 
competition became open and visible because of racial lines and racial 
philosophy and particularly in Northern states where free Negroes 
and fugitive slaves had established themselves as workers, while the 
ultimate and overshadowing competition of free and slave labor was 
obscured and pushed into the background. This situation, too, made 
extraordinary reaction, led by the ignorant mob and fomented by 
authority and privilege; abolitionists were attacked and their meeting 
places burned; women suffragists were hooted; laws were proposed 
making the kidnaping of Negroes easier and disfranchising Negro 
voters in conventions called for purposes of "reform." 

The humanitarian reform movement reached its height in 1847- 
1849 amid falling prices, and trade unionism was at a low ebb. The 
strikes from 1 849-1 852 won the support of Horace Greeley, and in- 
creased the labor organizations. Labor in eastern cities refused to touch 
the slavery controversy, and the control which the Democrats had 
over the labor vote in New York and elsewhere increased this tend- 
ency to ignore the Negro, and increased the division between white 
and colored labor. In 1850, a Congress of Trade Unions was held 
with no delegates. They stressed land reform but said nothing about 
slavery and the organization eventually was captured by Tammany 
Hall. After 1850 unions composed of skilled laborers began to separate 
from common laborers and adopt a policy of closed shops and a mini- 
mum wage and excluded farmers and Negroes. Although this move- 
ment was killed by the panic of 1857, it eventually became triumphant 
in the eighties and culminated in the American Federation of Labor 
which today allows any local or national union to exclude Negroes 
on any pretext. 

Other labor leaders became more explicit and emphasized race 
rather than class. John Campbell said in 1851: "Will the white race 
ever agree that blacks shall stand beside us on election day, upon the 
rostrum, in the ranks of the army, in our places of amusement, in 
places of public worship, ride in the same coaches, railway cars, or 
steamships? Never! Never! or is it natural, or just, that this kind of 
equality should exist? God never intended it; had he so willed it, he 
would have made all one color." 2 

New labor leaders arrived in the fifties. Hermann Kriege and Wil- 


helm Weitling left their work in Germany, and their friends Marx 
and Engels, and came to America, and at the same time came tens 
of thousands of revolutionary Germans. The Socialist and Com- 
munist papers increased. Trade unions increased in power and num- 
bers and held public meetings. Immediately, the question of slavery 
injected itself, and that of abolition. 

Kriege began to preach land reform and free soil in 1846, and by 
1850 six hundred American papers were supporting his program. But 
Kriege went beyond Evans and former leaders and openly repudiated 
abolition. He declared in 1846: 

"That we see in the slavery question a property question which 
cannot be settled by itself alone. That we should declare ourselves 
in favor of the abolitionist movement if it were our intention to throw 
the Republic into a state of anarchy, to extend the competition of 
'free workingmen' beyond all measure, and to depress labor itself 
to the last extremity. That we could not improve the lot of our 'black 
brothers' by abolition under the conditions prevailing in modern 
society, but make infinitely worse the lot of our 'white brothers.' That 
we believe in the peaceable development of society in the United 
States and do not, therefore, here at least see our only hope in condi- 
tion of the extremest degradation. That we feel constrained, there- 
fore, to oppose Abolition with all our might, despite all the impor- 
tunities of sentimental philistines and despite all the poetical effusions 
of liberty-intoxicated ladies." 3 

Wilhelm Weitling, who came to America the following year, 1847, 
started much agitation but gave little attention to slavery. He did 
not openly side with the slaveholder, as Kriege did; nevertheless, there 
was no condemnation of slavery in his paper. In the first German 
labor conference in Philadelphia, under Weitling in 1850, a series of 
resolutions were passed which did not mention slavery. Both Kriege 
and Weitling joined the Democratic party and numbers of other im- 
migrant Germans did the same thing, and these workers, therefore, 
became practical defenders of slavery. Doubtless, the "Know-Nothing" 
movement against the foreign-born forced many workers into the 
Democratic party, despite slavery. 

The year 1853 saw the formation of the Arbeiterbund, under Joseph 
Weydemeyer, a friend of Karl Marx. This organization advocated 
Marxian socialism but never got a clear attitude toward slavery. In 
1854, it opposed the Kansas-Nebraska bill because "Capitalism and 
land speculation have again been favored at the expense of the mass 
of the people," and "This bill withdraws from or makes unavailable 
in a future homestead bill vast tracts of territory," and "authorizes 
the further extension of slavery; but we have, do now, and shall con- 


tinue to protest most emphatically against both white and black 

Nevertheless, when the Arbeiterbund was reorganized in December, 
1857, slavery was not mentioned. When its new organ appeared in 
April, 1858, it said that the question of the present moment was 
not the abolition of slavery, but the prevention of its further extension 
iand that Negro slavery was firmly rooted in America. One small 
division of this organization in 1857 called for abolition of the slave 
trade and colonization of Negroes, but defended the Southern slave- 

In 1859, however, a conference of the Arbeiterbund condemned all 
slavery in whatever form it might appear, and demanded the repeal 
of the Fugitive Slave Law. The Democratic and pro-slavery New 
York Staats-Zeitung counseled the people to abstain from agitation 
against the extension of slavery, but all of the German population did 
not agree. 

As the Chartist movement increased in England, the press was filled 
with attacks against the United States and its institutions, and the 
Chartists were clear on the matter of slavery. Their chief organ in 
1844 said: "That damning stain upon the American escutcheon is one 
that has caused the Republicans of Europe to weep for very shame 
and mortification; and the people of the United States have much 
to answer for at the bar of humanity for this indecent, cruel, revolting 
and fiendish violation of their boasted principle — that 'All men are 
born free and equal.' " 

The labor movement in England continued to emphasize the 
importance of attacking slavery ; and the agitation, started by the 
work of Frederick Douglass and others, increased in importance and 
activity. In 1857, George I. Holyoake sent an anti-slavery address to 
America, signed by 1,800 English workingmen, whom Karl Marx 
himself was guiding in England, and this made the black American 
worker a central text. They pointed out the fact that the black worker 
was furnishing the raw material which the English capitalist was ex- 
ploiting together with the English worker. This same year, the United 
States Supreme Court sent down the Dred Scott decision that Negroes 
were not citizens. 

This English initiative had at first but limited influence in America. 
The trade unions were willing to admit that the Negroes ought to 
be free sometime; but at the present, self-preservation called for their 
slavery; and after all, whites were a different grade of workers from 
blacks. Even when the Marxian ideas arrived, there was a split; the 
earlier representatives of the Marxian philosophy in America agreed 
with the older Union movement in deprecating any entanglement 


with the abolition controversy. After all, abolition represented capital. 
The whole movement was based on mawkish sentimentality, and 
not on the demands of the workers, at least of the white workers. 
And so the early American Marxists simply gave up the idea of intrud- 
ing the black worker into the socialist commonwealth at that time. 

To this logic the abolitionists were increasingly opposed. It seemed 
to them that the crucial point was the matter of freedom; that a free 
laborer in America had an even chance to make his fortune as a worker 
or a farmer; but, on the other hand, if the laborer was not free, as 
in the case of the Negro, he had no opportunity, and he inevitably 
degraded white labor. The abolitionist did not sense the new sub- 
ordination into which the worker was being forced by organized capi- 
tal, while the laborers did not realize that the exclusion of four million 
workers from the labor program was a fatal omission. Wendell 
Phillips alone suggested a boycott on Southern goods, and said that 
the great cause of labor was paramount and included mill operatives 
in New England, peasants in Ireland, and laborers in South America 
who ought not to be lost sight of in sympathy for the Southern slave. 

In the United States shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War 
there were twenty-six trades with national organizations, including 
the iron and steel workers, machinists, blacksmiths, etc. The employ- 
ers formed a national league and planned to import more workmen 
from foreign countries. The iron molders started a national strike 
July 5, 1859, and said: "Wealth is power, and practical experience 
teaches us that it is a power but too often used to oppress and degrade 
the daily laborer. Year after year the capital of the country becomes 
more and more concentrated in the hands of a few, and, in proportion 
as the wealth of the country becomes centralized, its power increases, 
and the laboring classes are impoverished. It therefore becomes us, as 
men who have to battle with the stern realities of life, to look this 
matter fair in the face; there is no dodging the question; let every 
man give it a fair, full and candid consideration, and then act accord- 
ing to his honest convictions. What position are we, the mechanics of 
America, to hold in Society?" 

There was not a word in this address about slavery and one would 
not dream that the United States was on the verge of the greatest 
labor revolution it had seen. Other conferences of the molders, machin- 
ists and blacksmiths and others were held in the sixties, and a labor 
mass meeting at Faneuil Hall in Boston in 1861 said: "The truth is 
that the workingmen care little for the strife of political parties and 
the intrigues of office-seekers. We regard them with the contempt 
they deserve. We are weary of this question of slavery; it is a matter 
which does not concern us; and we wish only to attend to our business, 


and leave the South to attend to their own affairs, without any inter- 
ference from the North." 4 

In all this consideration, we have so far ignored the white workers 
of the South and we have done this because the labor movement 
ignored them and the abolitionists ignored them; and above all, they 
were ignored by Northern capitalists and Southern planters. They 
were in many respects almost a forgotten mass of men. Cairnes de- 
scribes the slave South, the period just before the war: 

"It resolves itself into three classes, broadly distinguished from each 
other, and connected by no common interest — the slaves on whom 
devolves all the regular industry, the slaveholders who reap all its 
fruits, and an idle and lawless rabble who live dispersed over vast 
plains in a condition little removed from absolute barbarism." 

From all that has been written and said about the ante-bellum South, 
one almost loses sight of about 5,000,000 white people in i860 who lived 
in the South and held no slaves. Even among the two million slave- 
holders, an oligarchy of 8,000 really ruled the South, while as an ob- 
server said: "For twenty years, I do not recollect ever to have seen or 
heard these non-slaveholding whites referred to by the Southern gen- 
tleman as constituting any part of what they called the South." 5 They 
were largely ignorant and degraded; only 25% could read and write. 

The condition of the poor whites has been many times described: 

"A wretched log hut or two are the only habitations in sight. Here 
reside, or rather take shelter, the miserable cultivators of the ground, 
or a still more destitute class who make a precarious living by ped- 
dling 'lightwood' in the city. . . . 

"These cabins . . . are dens of filth. The bed if there be a bed is a 
layer of something in the corner that defies scenting. If the bed is 
nasty, what of the floor ? What of the whole enclosed space ? What of 
the creatures themselves? Pough! Water in use as a purifier is un- 
known. Their faces are bedaubed with the muddy accumulation of 
weeks. They just give them a wipe when they see a stranger to take 
off the blackest dirt. . . . The poor wretches seem startled when you 
address them, and answer your questions cowering like culprits." 6 

Olmsted said: "I saw as much close packing, filth and squalor, in 
certain blocks inhabited by laboring whites in Charleston, as I have 
witnessed in any Northern town of its size; and greater evidences of 
brutality and ruffianly character, than I have ever happened to see, 
among an equal population of this class, before." 7 

Two classes of poor whites have been differentiated: the mountain 
whites and the poor whites of the lowlands. "Below a dirty and ill- 
favored house, down under the bank on the shingle near the river, sits 
a family of five people, all ill-clothed and unclean; a blear-eyed old 


woman, a younger woman with a mass of tangled red hair hanging 
about her shoulders, indubitably suckling a baby; a little girl with 
the same auburn evidence of Scotch ancestry; a boy, and a younger 
child all gathered about a fire made among some bricks, surrounding 
a couple of iron saucepans, in which is a dirty mixture looking like 
mud, but probably warmed-up sorghum syrup, which with a few 
pieces of corn pone, makes their breakfast. 

"Most of them are illiterate and more than correspondingly igno- 
rant. Some of them had Indian ancestors and a few bear evidences 
of Negro blood. The so-called 'mountain boomer,' says an observer, 
'has little self-respect and no self-reliance. ... So long as his corn 
pile lasts the "cracker" lives in contentment, feasting on a sort of hoe 
cake made of grated corn meal mixed with salt and water and baked 
before the hot coals, with addition of what game the forest furnishes 
him when he can get up the energy to go out and shoot or trap it. . . . 
The irregularities of their moral lives cause them no sense of 
shame. . . . But, notwithstanding these low moral conceptions, they 
are of an intense religious excitability.' " 8 

Above this lowest mass rose a middle class of poor whites in the 
making. There were some small farmers who had more than a mere 
sustenance and yet were not large planters. There were overseers. 
There was a growing class of merchants who traded with the slaves 
and free Negroes and became in many cases larger traders, dealing 
with the planters for the staple crops. Some poor whites rose to the 
professional class, so that the rift between the planters and the mass 
of the whites was partially bridged by this smaller intermediate class. 

While revolt against the domination of the planters over the poor 
whites was voiced by men like Helper, who called for a class struggle 
to destroy the planters, this was nullified by deep-rooted antagonism 
to the Negro, whether slave or free. If black labor could be expelled 
from the United States or eventually exterminated, then the fight 
against the planter could take place. But the poor whites and their 
leaders could not for a moment contemplate a fight of united white 
and black labor against the exploiters. Indeed, the natural leaders of 
the poor whites, the small farmer, the merchant, the professional man, 
the white mechanic and slave overseer, were bound to the planters 
and repelled from the slaves and even from the mass of the white 
laborers in two ways: first, they constituted the police patrol who 
could ride with planters and now and then exercise unlimited force 
upon recalcitrant or runaway slaves; and then, too, there was always 
a chance that they themselves might also become planters by saving 
money, by investment, by the power of good luck; and the only heaven 
that attracted them was the life of the great Southern planter. 


There were a few weak associations of white mechanics, such as 
printers and shipwrights and iron molders, in 1 850-1 860, but practically 
no labor movement in the South. 

Charles Nordhoff states that he was told by a wealthy Alabaman, 
in i860, that the planters in his region were determined to discontinue 
altogether the employment of free mechanics. "On my own place," he 
said, "I have slave carpenters, slave blacksmiths, and slave wheel- 
wrights, and thus I am independent of free mechanics." And a certain 
Alfred E. Mathews remarks: "I have seen free white mechanics 
obliged to stand aside while their families were suffering for the neces- 
saries of life, when the slave mechanics, owned by rich and influential 
men, could get plenty of work; and I have heard these same white 
mechanics breathe the most bitter curses against the institution of 
slavery and the slave aristocracy." 

The resultant revolt of the poor whites, just as the revolt of the 
slaves, came through migration. And their migration, instead of being 
restricted, was freely encouraged. As a result, the poor whites left the 
South in large numbers. In i860, 399,700 Virginians were living out 
of their native state. From Tennessee, 344,765 emigrated; from North 
Carolina, 272,606, and from South Carolina, 256,868. The majority of 
these had come to the Middle West and it is quite possible that the 
Southern states sent as many settlers to the West as the Northeastern 
states, and while the Northeast demanded free soil, the Southerners 
demanded not only free soil but the exclusion of Negroes from work 
and the franchise. They had a very vivid fear of the Negro as a com- 
petitor in labor, whether slave or free. 

It was thus the presence of the poor white Southerner in the West 
that complicated the whole Free Soil movement in its relation to the 
labor movement. While the Western pioneer was an advocate of ex- 
treme democracy and equalitarianism in his political and economic 
philosophy, his vote and influence did not go to strengthen the aboli- 
tion-democracy, before, during, or even after the war. On the con- 
trary, it was stopped and inhibited by the doctrine of race, and the 
West, therefore, long stood against that democracy in industry which 
might have emancipated labor in the United States, because it did not 
admit to that democracy the American citizen of Negro descent. 

Thus Northern workers were organizing and fighting industrial 
integration in order to gain higher wage and shorter hours, and more 
and more they saw economic salvation in the rich land of the West. 
A Western movement of white workers and pioneers began and was 
paralleled by a Western movement of planters and black workers in 
the South. Land and more land became the cry of the Southern politi- 
cal leader, with finally a growing demand for reopening of the African 


slave trade. Land, more land, became the cry of the peasant farmer in 
the North. The two forces met in Kansas, and in Kansas civil war 

The South was fighting for the protection and expansion of its 
agrarian feudalism. For the sheer existence of slavery, there must be a 
continual supply of fertile land, cheaper slaves, and such political 
power as would give the slave status full legal recognition and pro- 
tection, and annihilate the free Negro. The Louisiana Purchase had 
furnished slaves and land, but most of the land was in the Northwest. 
The foray into Mexico had opened an empire, but the availability of 
this land was partly spoiled by the loss of California to free labor. 
This suggested a proposed expansion of slavery toward Kansas, where 
it involved the South in competition with white labor: a competition 
which endangered the slave status, encouraged slave revolt, and in- 
creased the possibility of fugitive slaves. 

It was a war to determine how far industry in the United States 
should be carried on under a system where the capitalist owns not 
only the nation's raw material, not only the land, but also the laborer 
himself; or whether the laborer was going to maintain his personal 
freedom, and enforce it by growing political and economic inde- 
pendence based on widespread ownership of land. 

This brings us down to the period of the Civil War. Up to the time 
that the war actually broke out, American labor simply refused, in 
the main, to envisage black labor as a part of its problem. Right up 
to the edge of the war, it was talking about the emancipation of white 
labor and the organization of stronger unions without saying a word, 
or apparently giving a thought, to four million black slaves. During 
the war, labor was resentful. Workers were forced to fight in a 
strife between capitalists in which they had no interest and they 
showed their resentment in the peculiarly human way of beating and 
murdering the innocent victims of it all, the black free Negroes of 
New York and other Northern cities; while in the South, five million 
non-slaveholding poor white farmers and laborers sent their man- 
hood by the thousands to fight and die for a system that had degraded 
them equally with the black slave. Could one imagine anything more 
paradoxical than this whole situation? 

America thus stepped forward in the first blossoming of the modern 
age and added to the Art of Beauty, gift of the Renaissance, and to 
Freedom of Belief, gift of Martin Luther and Leo X, a vision of 
democratic self-government: the domination of political life by the 
intelligent decision of free and self-sustaining men. What an idea 
and what an area for its realization — endless land of richest fertility, 
natural resources such as Earth seldom exhibited before, a population 


infinite in variety, of universal gift, burned in the fires of poverty 
and caste, yearning toward the Unknown God; and self-reliant pi- 
oneers, unafraid of man or devil. It was the Supreme Adventure, in 
the last Great Batde of the West, for that human freedom which 
would release the human spirit from lower lust for mere meat, and 
set it free to dream and sing. 

And then some unjust God leaned, laughing, over the ramparts 
of heaven and dropped a black man in the midst. 

It transformed the world. It turned democracy back to Roman Im- 
perialism and Fascism; it restored caste and oligarchy; it replaced 
freedom with slavery and withdrew the name of humanity from the 
vast majority of human beings. 

But not without struggle. Not without writhing and rending of 
spirit and pitiable wail of lost souls. They said: Slavery was wrong 
but not all wrong; slavery must perish and not simply move; God 
made black men; God made slavery; the will of God be done; slavery 
to the glory of God and black men as his servants and ours; slavery 
as a way to freedom — the freedom of blacks, the freedom of whites; 
white freedom as the goal of the world and black slavery as the 
path thereto. Up with the white world, down with the black! 

Then came this battle called Civil War, beginning in Kansas in 
1854, and ending in the presidential election of 1876 — twenty awful 
years. The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then 
moved back again toward slavery. The whole weight of America was 
thrown to color caste. The colored world went down before England, 
France, Germany, Russia, Italy and America. A new slavery arose. 
The upward moving of white labor was betrayed into wars for profit 
based on color caste. Democracy died save in the hearts of black folk. 

Indeed, the plight of the white working class throughout the world 
today is directly traceable to Negro slavery in America, on which mod- 
ern commerce and industry was founded, and which persisted to 
threaten free labor until it was partially overthrown in 1863. The 
resulting color caste founded and retained by capitalism was adopted, 
forwarded and approved by white labor, and resulted in subordina- 
tion of colored labor to white profits the world over. Thus the major- 
ity of the world's laborers, by the insistence of white labor, became the 
basis of a system of industry which ruined democracy and showed its 
perfect fruit in World War and Depression. And this book seeks to 
tell that story. 

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm, 
Shelter, food, love's gentle balm? 


Or what is it ye buy so dear 

With your pain and with your fear? 

The seed ye sow, another reaps; 
The wealth ye find, another keeps; 
The robes ye weave, another wears; 
The arms ye forge, another bears. 
Percy Bysshe Shelley 

1. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, p. 66. 

2. Campbell, Negromania, p. 545. 

3. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, pp. 72, 73. 

4. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, p. 135. 

5. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, p. 86. 

6. Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, p. 326. 

7. Olmsted, Seaboard Slave States, p. 404. 

8. Hart, The Southern South, pp. 34, 35. 


How seven per cent of a section within a nation ruled five million 

white people and owned four million black people and sought to 

make agriculture equal to industry through the rule of property 

without yielding political power or education to labor 

Seven per cent of the total population of the South in i860 owned 
nearly 3 million of the 3,953,696 slaves. There was nearly as great 
a concentration of ownership in the best agricultural land. This meant 
that in a country predominantly agricultural, the ownership of labor, 
land and capital was extraordinarily concentrated. Such peculiar or- 
ganization of industry would have to be carefully reconciled with the 
new industrial and political democracy of the nineteenth century if 
it were to survive. 

Of the five million whites who owned no slaves some were united 
in interest with the slave owners. These were overseers, drivers and 
dealers in slaves. Others were hirers of white and black labor, and 
still others were merchants and professional men, forming a petty 
bourgeois class, and climbing up to the planter class or falling down 
from it. The mass of the poor whites, as we have shown, were eco- 
nomic outcasts. 

Colonial Virginia declared its belief in natural and inalienable 
rights, popular sovereignty, and government for the common good, 
even before the Declaration of Independence. But it soon became the 
belief of doctrinaires, and not a single other Southern state enacted 
these doctrines of equality until after the Civil War. The Recon- 
struction constitutions incorporated them; but quite logically, South 
Carolina repudiated its declaration in 1895. 

The domination of property was shown in the qualifications for 
office and voting in the South. Southerners and others in the Consti- 
tutional Convention asked for property qualifications for the Presi- 
dent of the United States, the federal judges, and Senators. Most 
Southern state governments required a property qualification for the 
Governor, and in South Carolina, he must be worth ten thousand 
pounds. Members of the legislature must usually be landholders. 

Plural voting was allowed as late as 1832. The requirement of the 
ownership of freehold land for officeholders operated to the disad- 
vantage of merchants and mechanics. In North Carolina, a man must 



own 50 acres to vote for Senator, and in 1828, out of 250 voters at 
Wilmington, only 48 had the qualifications to vote for Senator. 
Toward the time of the Civil War many of these property qualifica- 
tions disappeared. 

Into the hands of the slaveholders the political power of the South 
was concentrated, by their social prestige, by property ownership and 
also by their extraordinary rule of the counting of all or at least three- 
fifths of the Negroes as part of the basis of representation in the legis- 
lature. It is singular how this "three-fifths" compromise was used, 
not only to degrade Negroes in theory, but in practice to disfranchise 
the white South. Nearly all of the Southern states began with recog- 
nizing the white population as a basis of representation; they after- 
ward favored the black belt by direct legislation or by counting three- 
fifths of the slave population, and then finally by counting the whole 
black population; or they established, as in Virginia and South Car- 
olina, a "mixed" basis of representation, based on white population 
and on property; that is, on land and slaves. 

In the distribution of seats in the legislature, this manipulation of 
political power appears. In the older states representatives were as- 
signed arbitrarily to counties, districts and towns, with little regard to 
population. This was for the purpose of putting the control in the 
hands of wealthy planters. Variations from this were the basing of 
representation on the white population in one House, and taxation in 
the other, or the use of the Federal proportion; that is, free persons and 
three-fifths of the slaves, or Federal proportion and taxation combined. 
These were all manipulated so as to favor the wealthy planters. The 
commercial class secured scant representation as compared with agri- 
culture. , 

"It is a fact that the political working of the state [of South Car- 
olina] is in the hands of one hundred and fifty to one hundred and 
eighty men. It has taken me six months to appreciate the entireness 
of the fact, though of course I had heard it stated." * 

In all cases, the slaveholder practically voted both for himself and his 
slaves and it was not until 1850 and particularly after the war that there 
were signs of self-assertion on the part of the poor whites to break this 
monopoly of power. Alabama, for instance, in 1850, based representa- 
tion in the general assembly upon the white inhabitants, after thirty 
years of counting the whole white and black population. Thus the 
Southern planters had in their hands from 1820 to the Civil War politi- 
cal power equivalent to one or two million freemen in the North. 

They fought bitterly during the early stages of Reconstruction to 
retain this power for the whites, while at the same time granting 
no political power to the blacks. Finally and up to this day, by mak- 


ing good their efforts to disfranchise the blacks, the political heirs 
of the planters still retain for themselves this added political representa- 
tion as a legacy from slavery, and a power to frustrate all third party 

Thus, the planters who owned from fifty to one thousand slaves 
and from one thousand to ten thousand acres of land came to fill the 
whole picture in the South, and literature and the propaganda which 
is usually called history have since exaggerated that picture. The 
planter certainly dominated politics and social life — he boasted of his 
education, but on the whole, these Southern leaders were men singu- 
larly ignorant of modern conditions and trends and of their historical 
background. All their ideas of gentility and education went back to 
the days of European privilege and caste. They cultivated a surface 
acquaintance with literature and they threw Latin quotations even 
into Congress. Some few had a cultural education at Princeton and 
at Yale, and to this day Princeton refuses to receive Negro students, 
and Yale has admitted a few with reluctance, as a curious legacy from 

Many Southerners traveled abroad and the fashionable European 
world met almost exclusively Americans from the South and were 
favorably impressed by their manners which contrasted with the 
gaucherie of the average Northerner. A Southerner of the upper class 
could enter a drawing room and carry on a light conversation and eat 
according to the rules, on tables covered with silver and fine linen. 
They were "gentlemen" according to the older and more meager 
connotation of the word. 

Southern women of the planter class had little formal education; 
they were trained in dependence, with a smattering of French and 
music; they affected the latest European styles; were always described 
as "beautiful" and of course must do no work for a living except in 
the organization of their households. In this latter work, they were 
assisted and even impeded by more servants than they needed. The 
temptations of this sheltered exotic position called the finer possibilities 
of womanhood into exercise only in exceptional cases. It was the 
woman on the edge of the inner circles and those of the struggling 
poor whites who sought to enter the ranks of the privileged who 
showed superior character. 

Most of the planters, like most Americans, were of humble descent, 
two or three generations removed. Jefferson Davis was a grandson of 
a poor Welsh immigrant. Yet the Southerner's assumptions impressed 
the North and although most of them were descended from the 
same social classes as the Yankees, yet the Yankees had more recently 
been reenforced by immigration and were strenuous, hard-working 


men, ruthlessly pushing themselves into the leadership of the new 
industry. Such folk not only "love a lord," but even the fair imita- 
tion of one. 

The leaders of the South had leisure for good breeding and high 
living, and before them Northern society abased itself and flattered 
and fawned over them. Perhaps this, more than ethical reasons, or 
even economic advantage, made the way of the abolitionist hard. In 
New York, Saratoga, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, a slave baron, 
with his fine raiment, gorgeous and doll-like women and black 
flunkies, quite turned the heads of Northern society. Their habits of 
extravagance impressed the nation for a long period. Much of the 
waste charged against Reconstruction arose from the attempt of the 
post-war population, white and black, to imitate the manners of a 
slave-nurtured gentility, and this brought furious protest from former 
planters; because while planters spent money filched from the labor 
of black slaves, the poor white and black leaders of Reconstruction 
spent taxes drawn from recently impoverished planters. 

From an economic point of view, this planter class had interest in 
consumption rather than production. They exploited labor in order 
that they themselves should live more grandly and not mainly for 
increasing production. Their taste went to elaborate households, well- 
furnished and hospitable; they had much to eat and drink; they 
consumed large quantities of liquor; they gambled and caroused and 
kept up the habit of dueling well down into the nineteenth century. 
Sexually they were lawless, protecting elaborately and flattering the 
virginity of a small class of women of their social clan, and keeping 
at command millions of poor women of the two laboring groups 
of the South. 

Sexual chaos was always the possibility of slavery, not always 
realized but always possible: polygamy through the concubinage of 
black women to white men; polyandry between black women and 
selected men on plantations in order to improve the human stock of 
strong and able workers. The census of i860 counted 588,352 persons 
obviously of mixed blood — a figure admittedly below the truth. 

"Every man who resides on his plantation may have his harem, and 
has every inducement of custom, and of pecuniary gain [The law 
declares that the children of slaves are to follow the fortunes of the 
mother. Hence the practice of planters selling and bequeathing their 
own children.], to tempt him to the common practice. Those who, 
notwithstanding, keep their homes undefiled may be considered as 
of incorruptible purity." 1 

Mrs. Trollope speaks of the situation of New Orleans' mulattoes: 

"Of all the prejudices I have ever witnessed, this appears to us the 


most violent, and the most inveterate. Quadroon girls, the acknowl- 
edged daughters of wealthy American or Creole fathers, educated 
with all the style and accomplishments which money can procure at 
New Orleans, and with all the decorum that care and affection can 
give — exquisitely beautiful, graceful, gentle, and amiable, are not 
admitted, nay, are not on any terms admissible, into the society of 
the Creole families of Louisiana. They cannot marry; that is to say, 
no ceremony can render any union with them legal or binding." 2 

"It is known by almost everybody who has heard of the man, 
Richard M. Johnson, a Democratic Vice-President of the United States, 
that he had colored daughters of whom he was proud; and his was 
not an exceptional case." 3 Several Presidents of the United States have 
been accused of racial catholicity in sex. 

And finally, one cannot forget that bitter word attributed to a sister 
of a President of the United States: "We Southern ladies are compli- 
mented with names of wives; but we are only mistresses of seraglios." 4 

What the planters wanted was income large enough to maintain 
the level of living which was their ideal. Naturally, only a few of them 
had enough for this, and the rest, striving toward it, were perpetually 
in debt and querulously seeking a reason for this indebtedness out- 
side themselves. Since it was beneath the dignity of a "gentleman" 
to encumber himself with the details of his finances, this lordly 
excuse enabled the planter to place between himself and the black 
slave a series of intermediaries through whom bitter pressure and 
exploitation could be exercised and large crops raised. For the very 
reason that the planters did not give attention to details, there was 
wide tendency to commercialize their growing business of supplying 
raw materials for an expanding modern industry. They were the 
last to comprehend the revolution through which that industry was 
passing and their efforts to increase income succeeded only at the 
cost of raping the land and degrading the laborers. 

Theoretically there were many ways of increasing the income of 
the planter; practically there was but one. The planter might sell 
his crops at higher prices; he might increase his crop by intensive 
farming, or he might reduce the cost of handling and transporting 
his crops; he might increase his crops by making his laborers work 
harder and giving them smaller wages. In practice, the planter, so 
far as prices were concerned, was at the mercy of the market. Mer- 
chants and manufacturers by intelligence and close combination set 
the current prices of raw material. Their power thus exercised over 
agriculture was not unlimited but it was so large, so continuous and 
so steadily and intelligently exerted that it gradually reduced agri- 


culture to a subsidiary industry whose returns scarcely supported the 
farmer and his labor. 

The Southern planter in the fifties was in a key position to attempt 
to break and arrest the growth of this domination of all industry by 
trade and manufacture. But he was too lazy and self-indulgent to do 
this and he would not apply his intelligence to the problem. His 
capitalistic rivals of the North were hard-working, simple-living zealots 
devoting their whole energy and intelligence to building up an in- 
dustrial system. They quickly monopolized transport and mines and 
factories and they were more than willing to include the big planta- 
tions. But the planter wanted results without effort. He wanted large 
income without corresponding investment and he insisted furiously 
upon a system of production which excluded intelligent labor, ma- 
chinery, and modern methods. He toyed with the idea of local manu- 
factures and ships and railroads. But this entailed too much work and 

The result was that Northern and European industry set prices for 
Southern cotton, tobacco and sugar which left a narrow margin of 
profit for the planter. He could retaliate only by more ruthlessly ex- 
ploiting his slave labor so as to get the largest crops at the least ex- 
pense. He was therefore not deliberately cruel to his slaves, but he 
had to raise cotton enough to satisfy his pretensions and self-in- 
dulgence, even if it brutalized and commercialized his slave labor. 

Thus slavery was the economic lag of the 16th century carried 
over into the 19th century and bringing by contrast and by friction 
moral lapses and political difficulties. It has been estimated that the 
Southern states had in i860 three billion dollars invested in slaves, 
which meant that slaves and land represented the mass of their capital. 
Being generally convinced that Negroes could only labor as slaves, 
it was easy for them to become further persuaded that slaves were 
better of! than white workers and that the South had a better labor 
system than the North, with extraordinary possibilities in industrial 
and social development. 

The argument went like this: raw material like cotton, tobacco, 
sugar, rice, together with other foodstuffs formed the real wealth of 
the United States, and were produced by the Southern states. These 
crops were sold all over the world and were in such demand that the 
industry of Europe depended upon them. The trade with Europe must 
be kept open so that the South might buy at the lowest prices such 
manufactured goods as she wanted, and she must oppose all Northern 
attempts to exalt industry at the expense of agriculture. 

The North might argue cogently that industry and manufacture 
could build up in the United States a national economy. Writers on 


economics began in Germany and America to elaborate and insist 
upon the advantages of such a system; but the South would have 
none o£ it. It meant not only giving the North a new industrial pros- 
perity, but doing this at the expense of England and France; and the 
Southern planters preferred Europe to Northern America. They not 
only preferred Europe for social reasons and for economic advan- 
tages, but they sensed that the new power of monopolizing and dis- 
tributing capital through a national banking system, if permitted in 
the North in an expanding industry, would make the North an even 
greater financial dictator of the South than it was at the time. 

The South voiced for the Southern farmer, in 1850, words almost 
identical with those of the Western farmer, seventy-five years later. 
"All industry," declared one Southerner, "is getting legislative sup- 
port against agriculture, and thus the profits are going to manufacture 
and trade, and these concentrated in the North stand against the inter- 
ests of the South." 

It could not, perhaps, be proven that the Southern planter, had he 
been educated in economics and history, and had he known the essen- 
tial trends of the modern world, could have kept the Industrial Revo- 
lution from subordinating agriculture and reducing it to its present 
vasssalage to manufacturing. But it is certain that an enlightened and 
far-seeing agrarianism under the peculiar economic circumstances of 
the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century could 
have essentially modified the economic trend of the world. 

The South with free rich land and cheap labor had the monopoly 
of cotton, a material in universal demand. If the leaders of the South, 
while keeping the consumer in mind, had turned more thoughtfully 
to the problem of the American producer, and had guided the pro- 
duction of cotton and food so as to take every advantage of new 
machinery and modern methods in agriculture, they might have 
moved forward with manufacture and been able to secure an approxi- 
mately large amount of profit. But this would have involved yielding 
to the demands of modern labor: opportunity for education, legal 
protection of women and children, regulation of the hours of work, 
steadily increasing wages and the right to some voice in the admin- 
istration of the state if not in the conduct of industry. 

The South had but one argument 'against following modern civiliza- 
tion in this yielding to the demand of laboring humanity: it insisted 
on the efficiency of Negro labor for ordinary toil and on its essential 
equality in physical condition with the average labor of Europe and 
America. But in order to maintain its income without sacrifice or 
exertion, the South fell back on a doctrine of racial differences which 
it asserted made higher intelligence and increased efficiency impos- 


sible for Negro labor. Wishing such an excuse for lazy indulgence, 
the planter easily found, invented and proved it. His subservient re- 
ligious leaders reverted to the "Curse of Canaan"; his pseudo-scientists 
gathered and supplemented all available doctrines of race inferiority; 
his scattered schools and pedantic periodicals repeated these legends, 
until for the average planter born after 1840 it was impossible not to 
believe that all valid laws in psychology, economics and politics stopped 
with the Negro race. 

The espousal of the doctrine of Negro inferiority by the South was 
primarily because of economic motives and the inter-connected politi- 
cal urge necessary to support slave industry; but to the watching world 
it sounded like the carefully thought out result of experience and 
reason; and because of this it was singularly disastrous for modern 
civilization in science and religion, in art and government, as well as 
in industry. The South could say that the Negro, even when brought 
into modern civilization, could not be civilized, and that, therefore, 
he and the other colored peoples of the world were so far inferior 
to the whites that the white world had a right to rule mankind for 
their own selfish interests. 

Never in modern times has a large section of a nation so used its 
combined energies to the degradation of mankind. The hurt to the 
Negro in this era was not only his treatment in slavery; it was the 
wound dealt to his reputation as a human being. Nothing was left; 
nothing was sacred; and while the best and more cultivated and more 
humane of the planters did not themselves always repeat the calumny, 
they stood by, consenting by silence, while blatherskites said things 
about Negroes too cruelly untrue to be the word of civilized men. 
Not only then in the forties and fifties did the word Negro lose its 
capital letter, but African history became the tale of degraded animals 
and sub-human savages, where no vestige of human culture found 

Thus a basis in reason, philanthropy and science was built up for 
Negro slavery. Judges on the bench declared that Negro servitude was 
to last, "if the apocalypse be not in error, until the end of time." The 
Atlanta Daily Intelligencer of January 9, i860, said, "We can't see for 
the life of us how anyone understanding fully the great principle 
that underlies our system of involuntary servitude, can discover any 
monstrosity in subjecting a Negro to slavery of a white man. We 
contend on the contrary that the monstrosity, or, at least, the un- 
naturalness in this matter, consists in finding Negroes anywhere in 
white communities not under the control of the whites. Whenever 
we see a Negro, we presuppose a master, and if we see him in what 
is commonly called a 'free state,' we consider him out of his place. 


This matter of manumission, or emancipation 'now, thank heaven, 
less practiced than formerly,' is a species of false philanthropy, which 
we look upon as a cousin-German to Abolitionism — bad for the 
master, worse for the slave." 

Beneath this educational and social propaganda lay the undoubted 
evidence of the planter's own expenses. He saw ignorant and sullen 
labor deliberately reducing his profits. In fact, he always faced the 
negative attitude of the general strike. Open revolt of slaves — refusal 
to work — could be met by beating and selling to the harsher methods 
of the deep South and Southwest as punishment. Running away could 
be curbed by law and police. But nothing could stop the dogged slave 
from doing just as little and as poor work as possible. All observers 
spoke of the fact that the slaves were slow and churlish; that they 
wasted material and malingered at their work. Of course, they did. 
This was not racial but economic. It was the answer of any group 
of laborers forced down to the last ditch. They might be made to work 
continuously but no power could make them work well. 

If the European or Northern laborer did not do his work properly 
and fast enough, he would lose the job. The black slave could not lose 
his job. If the Northern laborer got sick or injured, he was discharged, 
usually without compensation; the black slave could not be discharged 
and had to be given some care in sicknesses, particularly if he repre- 
sented a valuable investment. The Northern and English employer 
could select workers in the prime of life and did not have to pay chil- 
dren too young to work or adults too old. The slave owner had to take 
care of children and old folk, and while this did not cost much on a 
farm or entail any great care, it did seriously cut down the proportion 
of his effective laborers, which could only be balanced by the systematic 
labor of women and children. The children ran loose with only the 
most general control, getting their food with the other slaves. The old 
folk foraged for themselves. Now and then they were found dead of 
neglect, but usually there was no trouble in their getting at least food 
enough to live and some rude shelter. 

The economic difficulties that thus faced the planter in exploiting 
the black slave were curious. Contrary to the trend of his age, he 
could not use higher wage to induce better work or a larger supply 
of labor. He could not allow his labor to become intelligent, although 
intelligent labor would greatly increase the production of wealth. He 
could not depend on voluntary immigration unless the immigrants 
be slaves, and he must bear the burden of the old and sick and could 
only balance this by child labor and the labor of women. 

The use of slave women as day workers naturally broke up or made 
impossible the normal Negro home and this and the slave code led 


to a development of which the South was really ashamed and which 
it often denied, and yet perfectly evident: the raising of slaves in the 
Border slave states for systematic sale on the commercialized cotton 

The ability of the slaveholder and landlord to sequester a large 
share of the profits of slave labor depended upon his exploitation of 
that labor, rather than upon high prices for his product in the market. 
In the world market, the merchants and manufacturers had all the 
advantage of unity, knowledge and purpose, and could hammer 
down the price of raw material. The slaveholder, therefore, saw North- 
ern merchants and manufacturers enrich themselves from the results 
of Southern agriculture. He was angry and used all of his great politi- 
cal power to circumvent it. His only effective economic movement, 
however, could take place against the slave. He was forced, unless 
willing to take lower profits, continually to beat down the cost of his 
slave labor. 

But there was another motive which more and more strongly as 
time went on compelled the planter to cling to slavery. His political 
power was based on slavery. With four million slaves he could balance 
the votes of 2,400,000 Northern voters, while in the inconceivable 
event of their becoming free, their votes would outnumber those of 
his Northern opponents, which was precisely what happened in 1868. 

As the economic power of the planter waned, his political power 
became more and more indispensable to the maintenance of his in- 
come and profits. Holding his industrial system secure by this political 
domination, the planter turned to the more systematic exploitation 
of his black labor. One method called for more land and the other 
for more slaves. Both meant not only increased crops but increased 
political power. It was a temptation that swept greed, religion, military 
pride and dreams of empire to its defense. There were two possibili- 
ties. He might follow the old method of the early West Indian sugar 
plantations: work his slaves without regard to their physical condition, 
until they died of over-work or exposure, and then buy new ones. 
The difficulty of this, however, was that the price of slaves, since the 
attempt to abolish the slave trade, was gradually rising. This in the 
deep South led to a strong and gradually increasing demand for 
the reopening of the African slave trade, just as modern industry de- 
mands cheaper and cheaper coolie labor in Asia and half -slave labor in 
African mines. 

The other possibility was to find continual increments of new, rich 
land upon which ordinary slave labor would bring adequate return. 
This land the South sought in the Southeast; then beyond the Mis- 
sissippi in Louisiana and Texas, then in Mexico, and finally, it turned 


its face in two directions: toward the Northwestern territories of the 
United States and toward the West Indian islands and South America. 
The South was drawn toward the West by two motives: first the 
possibility that slavery in Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada would 
be at least as profitable as in Missouri, and secondly to prevent the 
expansion of free labor there and its threat to slavery. This challenge 
was a counsel of despair in the face of modern industrial development 
and probably the radical South expected defeat in the West and hoped 
the consequent resentment among the slaveholders would set the 
South toward a great slave empire in the Caribbean. Jefferson Davis 
was ready to reopen the African slave trade to any future acquisition 
south of the Rio Grande. 

This brought the South to war with the farmers and laborers in 
the North and West, who wanted free soil but did not want to com- 
pete with slave labor. The fugitive slave law of 1850 vastly extended 
Federal power so as to nullify state rights in the North. The Compro- 
mise of 1850 permitted the extension of slavery into the territories, and 
the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, 1854, deprived Congress of the right to 
prohibit slavery anywhere. This opened the entire West to slavery. 
War followed in Kansas. Slaveholders went boldly into Kansas, armed 
and organized: 

"The invaders went in such force that the scattered and unorganized 
citizens could make no resistance and in many places they did not 
attempt to vote, seeing the polls surrounded by crowds of armed 
men who they knew came from Missouri to control the election 
and the leaders of the invaders kept their men under control, being 
anxious to prevent needless violence, as any serious outbreak would 
attract the attention of the country. In some districts the actual citizens 
protested against the election and petitioned the governor to set it 
aside and order another. 

"We can tell the impertinent scoundrels of the Tribune that we 
will continue to lynch and hang, to tar and feather and drown every 
white-livered Abolitionist who dares to pollute our soil." 5 Shut out 
from the United States territories by the Free Soil movement, the' 
South determined upon secession with the distinct idea of eventually 
expanding into the Caribbean. 

There was, however, the opposition in the Border States. The em- 
ployers of labor in the Border States had found a new source of 
revenue. They did not like to admit it. They surrounded it with a 
certain secrecy, and it was exceedingly bad taste for any Virginia 
planter to have it indicated that he was deliberately raising slaves 
for sale; and yet that was a fact. 

In no respect are the peculiar psychological difficulties of the plant- 


ers better illustrated than with regard to the interstate slave trade. 
The theory was clear and lofty; slaves were a part of the family — "my 
people," George Washington called them. Under ordinary circum- 
stances they were never to be alienated, but supported during good 
behavior and bad, punished and corrected for crime and misdemeanor, 
rewarded for good conduct. It was the patriarchal clan translated into 
modern life, with social, religious, economic and even blood ties. 

This was the theory; but as a matter of fact, the cotton planters 
were supplied with laborers by the Border States. A laboring stock 
was deliberately bred for legal sale. A large number of persons fol- 
lowed the profession of promoting this sale of slaves. There were 
markets and quotations, and the stream of black labor, moving con- 
tinuously into the South, reached yearly into the thousands. 

Notwithstanding these perfectly clear and authenticated facts, the 
planter persistently denied them. He denied that there was any con- 
siderable interstate sale of slaves; he denied that families were broken 
up; he insisted that slave auctions were due to death or mischance, 
and particularly did he insist that the slave traders were the least 
of human beings and most despised. 

This deliberate contradiction of plain facts constitutes itself a major 
charge against slavery and shows how the system often so affronted 
the moral sense of the planters themselves that they tried to hide from 
it. They could not face the fact of Negro women as brood mares and 
of black children as puppies. 

Indeed, while we speak of the planters as one essentially unvarying 
group, there is evidence that the necessities of their economic organ- 
ization were continually changing and deteriorating their morale and 
pushing forward ruder, noisier, less cultivated elements than charac- 
terized the Southern gentleman of earlier days. Certainly, the cursing, 
brawling, whoring gamblers who largely represented the South in the 
late fifties, evidenced the inevitable deterioration that overtakes men 
when their desire for income and extravagance overwhelms their re- 
spect for human beings. Thus the interstate slave trade grew and flour- 
ished and the demand for the African slave trade was rapidly becom- 
ing irresistible in the late fifties. 

From fifty to eighty thousand slaves went from the Border States 
to the lower South in the last decade of slavery. One planter frankly 
said that he "calculated that the moment a colored baby was born, it 
was worth to him $300." So far as possible, the planters in selling ofl 
their slaves avoided the breaking up of families. But they were facing 
flat economic facts. The persons who were buying slaves in the cotton 
belt were not buying families, they were buying workers, and thus 
by economic demand families were continually and regularly broken 


up; the father was sold away; the mother and the half-grown children 
separated, and sometimes smaller children were sold. One of the sub- 
sequent tragedies of the system was the frantic efforts, before and 
after emancipation, of Negroes hunting for their relatives throughout 
the United States. 

A Southerner wrote to Olmsted: "In the states of Maryland, Vir- 
ginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, as much 
attention is paid to the breeding and growth of Negroes as to that 
of horses and mules. Further south, we raise them both for use and 
for market. Planters command their girls and women (married or 
unmarried) to have children; and I have known a great many Negro 
girls to be sold off because they did not have children. A breeding 
woman is worth from one-sixth to one-fourth more than one that does 
not breed." 

Sexual chaos arose from economic motives. The deliberate breeding 
of a strong, big field-hand stock could be carried out by selecting 
proper males, and giving them the run of the likeliest females. This 
in many Border States became a regular policy and fed the slave 
trade. Child-bearing was a profitable occupation, which received every 
possible encouragement, and there was not only no bar to illegitimacy, 
but an actual premium put upon it. Indeed, the word was impossible 
of meaning under the slave system. 

Moncure D. Conway, whose father was a slaveholder near Fred- 
ericksburg, Virginia, wrote: "As a general thing, the chief pecuniary 
resource in the Border States is the breeding of slaves; and I grieve 
to say that there is too much ground for the charges that general 
licentiousness among the slaves, for the purpose of a large increase, is 
compelled by some masters and encouraged by many. The period of 
maternity is hastened, the average youth of Negro mothers being 
nearly three years earlier than that of any free race, and an old maid 
is utterly unknown among the women." 

J. E. Cairnes, the English economist, in his passage with Mr. Mc- 
Henry on this subject, computed from reliable data that Virginia, 
had bred and exported to the cotton states between the years of 1840 
and 1850 no less than 100,000 slaves, which at $500 per head would 
have yielded her $50,000,000. 

The law sometimes forbade the breaking up of slave families but: 

"Not one of these prohibitions, save those of Louisiana, and they but 
slightly, in any way referred to or hampered the owner of unencum- 
bered slave property: he might sell or pawn or mortgage or give it 
away according to profit or whim, regardless of age or kinship. 

"Elsewhere in the typical South — in Virginia, North Carolina, South 
Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas — there seems to have been 


no restriction of any sort against separating mothers and children 
or husbands and wives or selling children of any age. Slavery was, 
indeed, a 'peculiar institution.' " 6 

The slave-trading Border States, therefore, in their own economic 
interest, frantically defended slavery, yet opposed the reopening of 
the African slave trade to which the Southern South was becoming 
more and more attracted. This slave trade had curious psychological 
effects upon the planter. When George Washington sold a slave to 
the West Indies for one hogshead "of best rum" and molasses and 
sweetmeats, it was because "this fellow is both a rogue and a run- 

Thus tradition grew up that the sale of a slave from a gentleman's 
plantation was for special cause. As time went on and slavery became 
systematized and commercialized under the Cotton Kingdom, this 
was absolutely untrue. The "buying or selling of slaves was not viewed 
as having any taint of 'hated' slave-trading; yet it early became a fully 
credited tradition, implicitly accepted generation after generation, that 
'all traders were hated.' " 8 

The sacrifices necessary for economic advance, Southern planters 
were on the whole too selfish and too provincial to make. They 
would not in any degree curtail consumption in order to furnish at 
least part of the necessary increase of capital and make dependence 
upon debt to the North and to Europe less necessary. They did not 
socialize the ownership of the slave on any large scale or educate him 
in technique; they did not encourage local and auxiliary industry or 
manufacture, and thus make it possible for their own profit to exploit 
white labor and give it an economic foothold. This would have in- 
volved, to be sure, increased recognition of democracy, and far from 
yielding to any such inevitable development, the South threw itself 
into the arms of a reaction at least two centuries out of date. Governor 
McDufrle of South Carolina called the laboring class, bleached or un- 
bleached, a "dangerous" element in the population. 

A curious argument appeared in the Charleston Mercury of 1861: 

"Within ten years past as many as ten thousand slaves have been 
drawn away from Charleston by the attractive prices of the West, 
and [white] laborers from abroad have come to take their places. 
These laborers have every disposition to work above the slave, and if 
there were opportunity, would be glad to do so; but without such 
opportunity they come into competition with him; they are neces- 
sarily restive to the contact. Already there is disposition to exclude 
him from the trades, from public works, from drays, and the tables 
of the hotels; he is even now excluded to a great extent, and . . . 
when more laborers . . . shall come in greater numbers to the South, 


they will still more increase the tendency to exclusion; they will ques- 
tion the right of masters to employ their slaves in any work that they 
may wish for; they will invoke the aid of legislation; they will use 
the elective franchise to that end; they will acquire the power to de- 
termine municipal elections; they will inexorably use it; and thus the 
town of Charleston, at the very heart of slavery, may become a fortress 
of democratic power against it." 

The planters entirely misconceived the extent to which democracy 
was spreading in the North. They thought it meant that the laboring 
class was going to rule the North for labor's own economic in- 
terests. Even those who saw the seamy side of slavery were con- 
vinced of the Tightness of the system because they believed that there 
were seeds of disaster in the North against which slavery would be 
their protection; "indications that these are already beginning to be 
felt or anticipated by prophetic minds, they think they see in the 
demands for 'Land Limitation,' in the anti-rent troubles, in strikes 
of workmen, in the distress of emigrants at the eddies of their current, 
in diseased philanthropy, in radical democracy, and in the progress 
of socialistic ideas in general. 'The North,' say they, 'has progressed 
under the high pressure of unlimited competition; as the population 
grows denser, there will be terrific explosions, disaster, and ruin, while 
they will ride quietly and safely at the anchor of slavery.' " 9 

Thus the planters of the South walked straight into the face of 
modern economic progress. The North had yielded to democracy, 
but only because democracy was curbed by a dictatorship of property 
and investment which left in the hands of the leaders of industry 
such economic power as insured their mastery and their profits. Less 
than this they knew perfectly well they could not yield, and more 
than this they would not. They remained masters of the economic 
destiny of America. 

In the South, on the other hand, the planters walked in quite the 
opposite direction, excluding the poor whites from nearly every eco- 
nomic foothold with apparently no conception of the danger of these 
five million workers who, in time, overthrew the planters and utterly 
submerged them after the Civil War; and the South was equally 
determined to regard its four million slaves as a class of submerged 
workers and to this ideal they and their successors still cling. 

Calhoun once said with perfect truth: There has never yet existed 
"a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the com- 
munity did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other." 
Governor McDufne of South Carolina said: "God forbid that my 
descendants, in the remotest generations, should live in any other than 
a community having the institution of domestic slavery." 10 


The South elected to make its fight through the political power 
which it possessed because of slavery and the disfranchisement of the 
poor whites. It had in American history chosen eleven out of sixteen 
Presidents, seventeen out of twenty-eight Judges of the Supreme Court, 
fourteen out of nineteen Attorneys-General, twenty-one out of thirty- 
three Speakers of the House, eighty out of one hundred thirty-four 
Foreign Ministers. It demanded a fugitive slave law as strong as words 
could make it and it was offered constitutional guarantees which 
would have made it impossible for the North to meddle •with the 
organization of the slave empire. 

The South was assured of all the territory southwest of Missouri 
and as far as California. It might even have extended its imperialistic 
sway toward the Caribbean without effective opposition from the 
North or Europe. The South had conquered Mexico without help 
and beyond lay the rest of Mexico, the West Indies and South Amer- 
ica, open to Southern imperialistic enterprise. The South dominated 
the Army and Navy. It argued that a much larger proportion of the 
population could go to war in the South than in the North. There 
might, of course, be danger of slave insurrection in a long war with 
actual invasion, but the possibility of a long war or any war at all 
Southerners discounted, and they looked confidently forward to being 
either an independent section of the United States or an independent 
country with a stable economic foundation which could dictate its 
terms to the modern world on the basis of a monopoly of cotton, 
and a large production of other essential raw materials. 

The South was too ignorant to know that their only chance to 
establish such economic dictatorship and place themselves in a key 
economic position was through a national economy, in a large nation 
where a home market would absorb a large proportion of the pro- 
duction, and where agriculture, led by men of vision, could demand 
a fair share of profit from industry. 

When, therefore, the planters surrendered this chance and went to 
war with the machine to establish agricultural independence, they 
lost because of their internal weakness. Their whole labor class, black 
and white, went into economic revolt. The breach could only have 
been healed by making the same concessions to labor that France, 
England, Germany and the North had made. There was no time for 
such change in the midst of war. Northern industry must, therefore, 
after the war, make the adjustment with labor which Southern agricul- 
ture refused to make. But the loss which agriculture sustained through 
the stubbornness of the planters led to the degradation of agriculture 
throughout the modern world. 

Due to the stubbornness of the South and the capitalism of the 


West, we have had built up in the world an agriculture with a mini- 
mum of machines and new methods, conducted by ignorant labor 
and producing raw materials used by industry equipped with ma- 
chines and intelligent labor, and conducted by shrewd business men. 
The result has been that a disproportionate part of the profit of organ- 
ized work has gone to industry, while the agricultural laborer has 
descended toward slavery. The West, instead of becoming a country 
of peasant proprietors who might have counteracted this result, sur- 
rendered itself hand and foot to capitalism and speculation in land. 

The abolition of American slavery started the transportation of 
capital from white to black countries where slavery prevailed, with 
the same tremendous and awful consequences upon the laboring 
classes of the world which we see about us today. When raw material 
could not be raised in a country like the United States, it could be 
raised in the tropics and semi-tropics under a dictatorship of industry, 
commerce and manufacture and with no free farming class. 

The competition of a slave-directed agriculture in the West Indies 
and South America, in Africa and Asia, eventually ruined the eco- 
nomic efficiency of agriculture in the United States and in Europe 
and precipitated the modern economic degradation of the white 
farmer, while it put into the hands of the owners of the machine 
such a monopoly of raw material that their domination of white labor 
was more and more complete. 

The crisis came in i860, not so much because Abraham Lincoln 
was elected President on a platform which refused further land for 
the expansion of slavery, but because the cotton crop of 1859 reached 
the phenomenal height of five million bales as compared with three 
million in 1850. To this was added the threat of radical abolition as 
represented by John Brown. The South feared these social upheavals 
but it was spurred to immediate action by the great cotton crop. Start- 
ing with South Carolina, the Southern cotton-raising and slave-consum- 
ing states were forced out of the Union. 

Their reason for doing this was clearly stated and reiterated. For a 
generation, belief in slavery was the Southern shibboleth: 

"A suspicion of heresy on the subject of the 'peculiar institution' 
was sufficient to declare the ineligibility of any candidate for office; 
nay, more, orthodoxy began to depend upon the correct attitude toward 
the doctrine of 'Squatter Sovereignty' and the extreme view held as to 
Federal protection of slavery in the territories." n 

Jefferson Davis said that the North was "impairing the security of 
property and slaves and reducing those states which held slaves to a 
condition of inferiority." 

Senator Toombs said that property and slaves must be entitled to 


the same protection from the government as any other property. The 
South Carolina convention arraigned the North for increasing hostil- 
ity "to the institution of slavery," and declared for secession because 
the North had assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of 
Southern domestic institutions. 

Governor R. C. Wickliffe in his message at the extra session of the 
legislature of Louisiana expressed his belief that the election was "a 
deliberate design to pervert the powers of the Government to the 
immediate injury and ultimate destruction of the peculiar institution 
of the South." 12 

SlidePs farewell speech in the Congressional Globe of February 5, 

"We separate," he said, "because of the hostility of Lincoln to our 
institutions. ... If he were inaugurated without our consent there 
would be slave insurrections in the South." 13 

The Alabama Commissioner to Maryland arraigned the Lincoln 
government as proposing not "to recognize the right of the Southern 
citizens to property in the labor of African slaves." The Governor of 
Alabama arraigned the Republicans for desiring "the destruction of 
the institution of slavery." 

In the Southern Congress, at Montgomery on the 2d of February, 
1861, Senator Wigfall, from Texas, said that he was fighting for 
slavery, and for nothing else. The patent of nobility is in the color 
of the skin. He wanted to live in no country in which a man who 
blacked his boots and curried his horse was his equal. Give Negroes 
muskets and make them soldiers, and the next subject introduced 
for discussion will be miscegenation. 14 And finally, Alexander H. 
Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, stated fully the philos- 
ophy of the new Confederate government: "The new Constitution has 
put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar 
institutions — African slavery as it exists among us — the proper status of 
the Negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause 
of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had 
anticipated this as the 'roc\ upon which the old union would split! He 
was right. What was conjecture with him is now a realized fact. But 
whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock 
stood and stands may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by 
him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of 
the old Constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in 
violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, 
morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal 
with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, some- 
how or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be 


evanescent and pass away. . . . Those ideas, however, were funda- 
mentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of 
races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a 
government built upon it; when the 'storm came and the winds blew, 
it fell.' 

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea, 
its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth 
that the Negro is not equal to the white man. That slavery — sub- 
ordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. 
This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world, 
based upon this great physical and moral truth. This truth has been 
slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the 
various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many 
who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not 
generally admitted, even within their day. . . . 

"Now they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, 
look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of 
the truths upon which our system rests. It is the first government ever 
instituted upon principles of strict conformity to nature, and the 
ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human so- 
ciety. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of 
certain classes; but the classes thus enslaved, were of the same race, 
and in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such 
violation of nature's laws. The Negro, by nature, or by the curse 
against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our 
system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foun- 
dation with the proper materials, the granite; then comes the brick 
or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material 
fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not 
only for the superior, but for the inferior race that it should be so. 
It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not 
for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question 
them. For His own purposes He has made one race to differ from 
another, as He has had 'one star to differ from another star in 
glory.' " » 

The rift between the Southern South and the Border States was 
bridged by omission of all reference to the reopening of the slave trade 
and stressing the reality of the Northern attack upon the institution 
of slavery itself. 

The movement against the slave trade laws in the Southern South 
was strong and growing. In 1854, a grand jury in the Williamsburg 
district of South Carolina declared: "As our unanimous opinion, that 
the Federal law abolishing the African Slave Trade is a public griev- 


ance. We hold this trade has been and would be, if reestablished, a 
blessing to the American people and a benefit to the African himself." 

Two years later, the Governor of the state in his annual message ar- 
gued for a reopening of the trade and declared: "If we cannot supply 
the demand for slave labor, then we must expect to be supplied with 
a species of labor we do not want" (i.e., free white labor). The move- 
ment was forwarded by the commercial conventions. In 1855, at New 
Orleans, a resolution for the repeal of the slave trade laws was intro- 
duced but not reported by committee. In 1856, at Savannah, the con- 
vention refused to debate the matter of the repeal of the slave trade 
laws but appointed a committee. At the convention at Knoxville, in 
1857, a resolution declaring it inexpedient to reopen the trade was 
voted down. At Montgomery, in 1858, a committee presented an elabo- 
rate majority report declaring it "expedient and proper that the foreign 
slave trade should be reopened." After debate, it was decided that 
it was inexpedient for any single state to attempt to reopen the African 
slave trade while that state is one of the United States of America. 
Finally, at Vicksburg in 1859, it was voted 40-19, "that all laws, state 
or Federal, prohibiting the African slave trade, ought to be repealed." 

Both the provisional and permanent constitutions of the Confederate 
states forbade the importation of Negroes from foreign countries, ex- 
cept the "slave-holding states or territories of the United States of 
America." Nevertheless, the foreign ministers of the Confederate states 
were assured that while the Confederate government had no power to 
reopen the slave trade, the states could, if they wanted to, and that the 
ministers were not to discuss any treaties to prohibit the trade. 16 

Thus the planters led the South into war, carrying the five million 
poor whites blindly with them and standing upon a creed which 
opposed the free distribution of government land; which asked for 
the expansion of slave territory, for restricted functions of the national 
government, and for the perpetuity of Negro slavery. 

What irritated the planter and made him charge the North and 
liberal Europe with hypocrisy, was the ethical implications of slavery. 
He was kept explaining a system of work which he insisted was no 
different in essence from that in vogue in Europe and the North. 
They and he were all exploiting labor. He did it by individual right; 
they by state law. They called their labor free, but after all, the laborer 
was only free to starve, if he did not work on their terms. They 
called his laborer a slave when his master was responsible for him from 
birth to death. 

The Southern argument had strong backing in the commercial 
North. Lawyer O'Conner of New York expressed amid applause that 


calm reasoned estimate of the Negro in 1859, which pervaded the 

"Now, Gentlemen, nature itself has assigned, his condition of servi- 
tude to the Negro. He has the strength and is fit to work; but nature, 
which gave him this strength, denied him both the intelligence to 
rule and the will to work. Both are denied to him. And the same 
nature which denied him the will to work, gave him a master, who 
should enforce this will, and make a useful servant of him in a climate 
to which he is well adapted for his own benefit and that of the master 
who rules him. I assert that it is no injustice to leave the Negro in 
the position into which nature placed him; to put a master over him; 
and he is not robbed of any right, if he is compelled to labor in return 
for this, and to supply a just compensation for his master in return 
for the labor and the talents devoted to ruling him and to making him 
useful to himself and to society." 

What the planter and his Northern apologist did not readily admit 
was that this exploitation of labor reduced it to a wage so low and a 
standard of living so pitiable that no modern industry in agriculture 
or trade or manufacture could build upon it; that it made ignorance 
compulsory and had to do so in self-defense; and that it automatically 
was keeping the South from entering the great stream of modern 
industry where growing intelligence among workers, a rising stand- 
ard of living among the masses, increased personal freedom and 
political power, were recognized as absolutely necessary. 

The ethical problem here presented was less important than the 
political and far less than the economic. The Southerners were as little 
conscious of the hurt they were inflicting on human beings as the 
Northerners were of their treatment of the insane. It is easy for men 
to discount and misunderstand the suffering or harm done others. 
Once accustomed to poverty, to the sight of toil and degradation, it 
easily seems normal and natural; once it is hidden beneath a different 
color of skin, a different stature or a different habit of action and 
speech, and all consciousness of inflicting ill disappears. 

The Southern planter suffered, not simply for his economic mis- 
takes — the psychological effect of slavery upon him was fatal. The 
mere fact that a man could be, under the law, the actual master of the 
mind and body of human beings had to have disastrous effects. It 
tended to inflate the ego of most planters beyond all reason; they 
became arrogant, strutting, quarrelsome kinglets; they issued com- 
mands; they made laws; they shouted their orders; they expected def- 
erence and self-abasement; they were choleric and easily insulted. 
Their "honor" became a vast and awful thing, requiring wide and 
insistent deference. Such of them as were inherently weak and in 


efficient were all the more easily angered, jealous and resentful; while 
the few who were superior, physically or mentally, conceived no 
bounds to their power and personal prestige. As the world had long 
learned, nothing is so calculated to ruin human nature as absolute 
power over human beings. 

On the other hand, the possession of such power did not and could 
not lead to its continued tyrannical exercise. The tyrant could be kind 
and congenial. He could care for his chattels like a father; he could 
grant indulgence and largess; he could play with power and find 
tremendous satisfaction in its benevolent use. 

Thus, economically and morally, the situation of the planter became 
intolerable. What was needed was the force of great public opinion 
to make him see his economic mistakes and the moral debauchery 
that threatened him. But here again in the planter class no room 
was made for the reformer, the recalcitrant. The men who dared 
such thought and act were driven out or suppressed with a virulent 
tyranny reminiscent of the Inquisition and the Reformation. For these 
there was the same peculiar way of escape that lay before the slave. 
The planter who could not stand slavery followed the poor whites 
who could not stand Negroes, they followed the Negro who also 
could not stand slavery, into the North; and there, removed from 
immediate contact with the evils of slavery, the planter often became 
the "copperhead," and theoretical champion of a system which he 
could not himself endure. 

Frederick Douglass thus summed up the objects of the white planter: 

"I understand this policy to comprehend five cardinal objects. They 
are these: 1st, The complete suppression of all anti-slavery discussion. 
2d, The expatriation of the entire free people of color from the United 
States. 3d, The unending perpetuation of slavery in this republic. 4th, 
The nationalization of slavery to the extent of making slavery re- 
spected in every state of the Union. 5th, The extension of slavery 
over Mexico and the entire South American states." 17 

This whole system and plan of development failed, and failed of its 
own weakness. Unending effort has gone into painting the claims of 
the Old South, its idyllic beauty and social charm. But the truth is 
inexorable. With all its fine men and sacrificing women, its hospitable 
homes and graceful manners, the South turned the most beautiful 
section of the nation into a center of poverty and suffering, of drink- 
ing, gambling and brawling; an abode of ignorance among black 
and white more abysmal than in any modern land; and a system of 
industry so humanly unjust and economically inefficient that if it 
had not committed suicide in civil war, it would have disintegrated 
of its own weight. 


With the Civil War, the planters died as a class. We still talk as 
though the dominant social class in the South persisted after the war. 
But it did not. It disappeared. Just how quickly and in what manner 
the transformation was made, we do not know. No scientific study 
of the submergence of the remainder of the planter class into the 
ranks of the poor whites, and the corresponding rise of a portion of 
the poor whites into the dominant portion of landholders and capital- 
ists, has been made. Of the names of prominent Southern families in 
Congress in i860, only two appear in 1870, five in 1880. Of 90 prom- 
inent names in 1870, only four survived in 1880. Men talk today as 
though the upper class in the white South is descended from the slave- 
holders; yet we know by plain mathematics that the ancestors of most 
of the present Southerners never owned a slave nor had any real eco- 
nomic part in slavery. The disaster of war decimated the planters; 
the bitter disappointment and frustration led to a tremendous mor- 
tality after the war, and from 1870 on the planter class merged their 
blood so completely with the rising poor whites that they disappeared 
as a separate aristocracy. It is this that explains so many characteristics 
of the post-war South: its lynching and mob law, its murders and 
cruelty, its insensibility to the finer things of civilization. 

Not spring; from us no agony of birth 
Is asked or needed; in a crimson tide 
Upon the down-slope of the world 
We, the elect, are hurled 
In fearful power and brief pride 
Burning at last to silence and dark earth. 
Not Spring. James Rorty 

* Quoted in speech of Charles Sumner, in the United States Senate, December 20, 
1865, from "a private letter which I have received from a government officer." 
Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, p. 93, Column 2. 

1. Nevin, American Social History as Recorded by British Travellers, p. 209. 

2. Trollope, Frances, Domestic Manners of the Americans, p. 10. 

3. An Appeal of a Colored Man to His Fellow-Citizens of a Fairer Hue, in the United 

States, 1877, pp. 33, 34. 

4. Goodell, American Slave Code, p. in. 

5. Brewster, Sketches of Southern Mystery, Treason and Murder, pp. 48, 51. 

6. Bancroft, Slave-Trading in the Old South, p. 199. 

7. Mazyck, George Washington and the Negro, p. 13. 

8. Bancroft, Slave-Trading in the Old South, p. 381. 

9. Olmsted, A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, pp. 183-184. 

10. Studies in Southern History and Politics, footnote, pp. 329, 346. 

11. Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 12. 

12. Ficklen, Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 15. 

13. Ficklen, Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 27. 

14. New Orleans Tribune, February 15, 1865. 

15. Stewart, The Reward of Patriotism, pp. 41-43. 

16. Compare Du Bois, Suppression of Slave-Trade, Chapter XI. 

17. Woodson, Negro Orators and Their Orations, p. 224. 


How the Civil War meant emancipation and how the black worker 

won the war by a general strike which transferred his labor from 

the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in whose army 

lines workers began to be organized as a new labor force 

When Edwin Ruffin, white-haired and mad, fired the first gun at 
Fort Sumter, he freed the slaves. It was the last thing he meant to 
do but that was because he was so typically a Southern oligarch. He 
did not know the real world about him. He was provincial and lived 
apart on his plantation with his servants, his books and his thoughts. 
Outside of agriculture, he jumped at conclusions instead of testing 
them by careful research. He knew, for instance, that the North 
would not fight. He knew that Negroes would never revolt. 

And so war came. War is murder, force, anarchy and debt. Its 
end is evil, despite all incidental good. Neither North nor South had 
before 1861 the slightest intention of going to war. The thought was 
in many respects ridiculous. They were not prepared for war. The 
national army was small, poorly equipped and without experience. 
There was no file from which someone might draw plans of sub- 

When Northern armies entered the South they became armies of 
emancipation. It was the last thing they planned to be. The North 
did not propose to attack property. It did not propose to free slaves. 
This was to be a white man's war to preserve the Union, and the 
Union must be preserved. 

Nothing that concerned the amelioration of the Negro touched the 
heart of the mass of Americans nor could the common run of men 
realize the political and economic cost of Negro slavery. When, there- 
fore, the Southern radicals, backed by political oligarchy and economic 
dictatorship in the most extreme form in which the world had seen 
it for five hundred years, precipitated secession, that part of the North 
that opposed the plan had to hunt for a rallying slogan to unite the 
majority in the North and in the West, and if possible, bring the 
Border States into an opposing phalanx. 

Freedom for slaves furnished no such slogan. Not one-tenth of the 
Northern white population would have fought for any such purpose. 
Free soil was a much stronger motive, but it had no cogency in this 



contest because the Free Soilers did not dream of asking free soil in 
the South, since that involved the competition of slaves, or what 
seemed worse than that, of free Negroes. On the other hand, the tre- 
mendous economic ideal of keeping this great market for goods, the 
United States, together with all its possibilities of agriculture, manu- 
facture, trade and profit, appealed to both the West and the North; 
and what was then much more significant, it appealed to the Border 

"To the flag we are pledged, all its foes we abhor, 
And we ain't for the nigger, but we are for the war." 

The Border States wanted the cotton belt in the Union so that they 
could sell it their surplus slaves; but they also wanted to be in the 
same union with the North and West, where the profit of trade was 
large and increasing. The duty then of saving the Union became the 
great rallying cry of a war which for a long time made the Border 
States hesitate and confine secession to the far South. And yet they 
all knew that the only thing that really threatened the Union was 
slavery and the only remedy was Abolition. 

If, now, the far South had had trained and astute leadership, a com- 
promise could have been made which, so far as slavery was concerned, 
would have held the abnormal political power of the South intact, 
made the slave system impregnable for generations, and even given 
slavery practical rights throughout the nation. 

Both North and South ignored in differing degrees the interests of 
the laboring classes. The North expected patriotism and union to 
make white labor fight; the South expected all white men to defend 
the slaveholders' property. Both North and South expected at most a 
sharp, quick fight and victory; more probably the South expected to 
secede peaceably, and then outside the Union, to impose terms which 
would include national recognition of slavery, new slave territory and 
new cheap slaves. The North expected that after a threat and demon- 
stration to appease its "honor," the South would return with the right 
of slave property recognized and protected but geographically limited. 

Both sections ignored the Negro. To the Northern masses the Negro 
was a curiosity, a sub-human minstrel, willingly and naturally a slave, 
and treated as well as he deserved to be. He had not sense enough to 
revolt and help Northern armies, even if Northern armies were trying 
to emancipate him, which they were not. The North shrank at the 
very thought of encouraging servile insurrection against the whites. 
Above all it did not propose to interfere with property. Negroes on 
the whole were considered cowards and inferior beings whose very 
presence in America was unfortunate. The abolitionists, it was true, 


expected action on the part of the Negro, but how much, they could 
not say. Only John Brown knew just how revolt had come and would 
come and he was dead. 

Thus the Negro himself was not seriously considered by the major- 
ity of men, North or South. And yet from the very beginning, the 
Negro occupied the center of the stage because of very simple physical 
reasons: the war was in the South and in the South were 3,953,740 
black slaves and 261,918 free Negroes. What was to be the relation of 
this mass of workers to the war? What did the war mean to the Ne- 
groes, and what did the Negroes mean to the war? There are two 
theories, both rather over-elaborated: the one that the Negro did 
nothing but faithfully serve his master until emancipation was thrust 
upon him; the other that the Negro immediately, just as quickly as 
the presence of Northern soldiers made it possible, left serfdom and 
took his stand with the army of freedom. 

It must be borne in mind that nine-tenths of the four million black 
slaves could neither read nor write, and that the overwhelming ma- 
jority of them were isolated on country plantations. Any mass move- 
ment under such circumstances must materialize slowly and painfully. 
What the Negro did was to wait, look and listen and try to see where 
his interest lay. There was no use in seeking refuge in an army which 
was not an army of freedom; and there was no sense in revolting 
against armed masters who were conquering the world. As soon, how- 
ever, as it became clear that the Union armies would not or could not 
return fugitive slaves, and that the masters with all their fume and 
fury were uncertain of victory, the slave entered upon a general strike 
against slavery by the same methods that he had used during the pe- 
riod of the fugitive slave. He ran away to the first place of safety and 
offered his services to the Federal Army. So that in this way it was 
really true that he served his former master and served the emancipat- 
ing army; and it was also true that this withdrawal and bestowal of 
his labor decided the war. 

The South counted on Negroes as laborers to raise food and money 
crops for civilians and for the army, and even in a crisis, to be used 
for military purposes. Slave revolt was an ever-present risk, but there 
was no reason to think that a short war with the North would greatly 
increase this danger. Publicly, the South repudiated the thought of its 
slaves even wanting to be rescued. The New Orleans Crescent showed 
"the absurdity of the assertion of a general stampede of our Negroes." 
The London Dispatch was convinced that Negroes did not want to be 
free. "As for the slaves themselves, crushed with the wrongs of Dred 
Scott and Uncle Tom — most provoking — they cannot be brought to 
'burn with revenge.' They are spies for their masters. They obstinately 


refuse to run away to liberty, outrage and starvation. They work in 
the fields as usual when the planter and overseer are away and only 
the white women are left at home." 

Early in the war, the South had made careful calculation of the 
military value of slaves. The Alabama Advertiser in 1861 discussed 
the slaves as a "Military Element in the South." It said that "The total 
white population of the eleven states now comprising the Confederacy 
is 5,000,000, and, therefore, to fill up the ranks of the proposed army, 
600,000, about ten per cent of the entire white population, will be re- 
quired. In any other country than our own such a draft could not be 
met, but the Southern states can furnish that number of men, and still 
not leave the material interest of the country in a suffering condition." 

The editor, with fatuous faith, did not for a moment contemplate 
any mass movement against this program on the part of the slaves. 
"Those who are incapacitated for bearing arms can oversee the plan- 
tations, and the Negroes can go on undisturbed in their usual labors. 
In the North, the case is different; the men who join the army of 
subjugation are the laborers, the producers and the factory operatives. 
Nearly every man from that section, especially those from the rural 
districts, leaves some branch of industry to suffer during his absence. 
The institution of slavery in the South alone enables her to place in 
the field a force much larger in proportion to her white population 
than the North, or indeed any country which is dependent entirely 
on free labor. The institution is a tower of strength to the South, par- 
ticularly at the present crisis, and our enemies will be likely to find 
that the 'Moral Cancer' about which their orators are so fond of prat- 
ing, is really one of the most effective weapons employed against the 
Union by the South." x 

Soon the South of necessity was moving out beyond this plan. It 
was no longer simply a question of using the Negroes at home on the 
plantation to raise food. They could be of even more immediate use, 
as military labor, to throw up breastworks, transport and prepare food 
and act as servants in camp. In the Charleston Courier of November 
22, able-bodied hands were asked to be sent by their masters to work 
upon the defenses. "They would be fed and properly cared for." 

In 1862, in Charleston, after a proclamation of martial law, the gov- 
ernor and counsel authorized the procuring of Negro slaves either by 
the planter's consent or by impressment "to work on the fortifications 
and defenses of Charleston harbor." 

In Mississippi in 1862, permission was granted the Governor to im- 
press slaves to work in New Iberia for salt, which was becoming the 
Confederacy's most pressing necessity. In Texas, a thousand Negroes 
were offered by planters for work on the public defenses. 


By 1864, the matter had passed beyond the demand for slaves as 
military laborers and had come to the place where the South was seri- 
ously considering and openly demanding the use of Negroes as sol- 
diers. Distinctly and inevitably, the rigor of the slave system in the 
South softened as war proceeded. Slavery showed in many if not all 
respects its best side. The harshness and the cruelty, in part, had to 
disappear, since there were left on the plantations mainly women and 
children, with only a few men, and there was a certain feeling and 
apprehension in the air on the part of the whites which led them to 
capitalize all the friendship and kindness which had existed between 
them and the slaves. No race could have responded to this so quickly 
and thoroughly as the Negroes. They felt pity and responsibility and 
also a certain new undercurrent of independence. Negroes were still 
being sold rather ostentatiously in Charleston and New Orleans, but 
the long lines of Virginia Negroes were not marching to the South- 
west. In a certain sense, after the first few months everybody knew 
that slavery was done with; that no matter who won, the condition of 
the slave could never be the same after this disaster of war. And it 
was, perhaps, these considerations, more than anything else, that held 
the poised arm of the black man; for no one knew better than the 
South what a Negro crazed with cruelty and oppression and beaten 
back to the last stand could do to his oppressor. 

The Southerners, therefore, were careful. Those who had been kind 
to their slaves assured them of the bad character of the Yankee and of 
their own good intentions. 

Thus while the Negroes knew there were Abolitionists in the North, 
they did not know their growth, their power or their intentions and 
they did hear on every side that the South was overwhelmingly vic- 
torious on the battlefield. On the other hand, some of the Negroes 
sensed what was beginning to happen. The Negroes of the cities, the 
Negroes who were being hired out, the Negroes of intelligence who 
could read and write, all began carefully to watch the unfolding of 
the situation. At the first gun of Sumter, the black mass began not to 
move but to heave with nervous tension and watchful waiting. Even 
before war was declared, a movement began across the border. Just 
before the war large numbers of fugitive slaves and free Negroes 
rushed into the North. It was estimated that two thousand left North 
Carolina alone because of rumors of war. 

When W. T. Sherman occupied Port Royal in October, 1861, he 
had no idea that he was beginning emancipation at one of its strategic 
points. On the contrary, he was very polite and said that he had no 
idea of interfering with slaves. In the same way, Major General Dix, 
on seizing two counties of Virginia, was careful to order that slavery 


was not to be interfered with or slaves to be received into the line. 
Burnside went further, and as he brought his Rhode Island regiment 
through Baltimore in June, he courteously returned two Negroes who 
tried to run away with him. They were "supposed to be slaves," al- 
though they may have been free Negroes. On the 4th of July, Colonel 
Pryor of Ohio delivered an address to the people of Virginia in which 
he repudiated the accusation that the Northern army were Abolition- 

"I desire to assure you that the relation of master and servant as 
recognized in your state shall be respected. Your authority over that 
species of property shall not in the least be interfered with. To this 
end, I assure you that those under my command have peremptory 
orders to take up and hold any Negroes found running about the 
camp without passes from their masters." - 

Halleck in Missouri in 1862 refused to let fugitive slaves enter his 
lines. Burnside, Buell, Hooker, Thomas Williams and McClellan him- 
self, all warned their soldiers against receiving slaves and most of them 
permitted masters to come and remove slaves found within the lines. 

The constant charge of Southern newspapers, Southern politicians 
and their Northern sympathizers, that the war was an abolition war, 
met with constant and indignant denial. Loyal newspapers, orators 
and preachers, with few exceptions, while advocating stringent meas- 
ures for putting down the Rebellion, carefully disclaimed any inten- 
tion of disturbing the "peculiar institution" of the South. The Secre- 
tary of State informed foreign governments, through our ministers 
abroad, that this was not our purpose. President Lincoln, in his earlier 
messages, substantially reiterated the statement. Leading generals, on 
entering Southern territory, issued proclamations to the same effect. 
One even promised to put down any slave insurrection "with an iron 
hand," while others took vigorous measures to send back the fugitives 
who sought refuge within their lines. 

"In the early years of the war, if accounts do not err, during the 
entire period McClellan commanded the Army of the Potomac, 'John 
Brown's Body' was a forbidden air among the regimental bands. The 
Hutchinsons were driven from Union camps for singing abolition 
songs, and in so far as the Northern army interested itself at all in the 
slavery question, it was by the use of force to return to their Southern 
masters fugitives seeking shelter in the Union lines. While the infor- 
mation they possessed, especially respecting the roads and means of 
communication, should have been of inestimable service to the Feder- 
als, they were not to be employed as laborers or armed as soldiers. The 
North avoided the appearance of a desire to raise the Negroes from 
the plane of chattels to the rank of human beings." 3 


Here was no bid for the cooperation of either slaves or free Negroes. 
In the North, Negroes were not allowed to enlist and often refused 
with indignation. "Thus the weakness of the South temporarily be- 
came her strength. Her servile population, repulsed by Northern pro- 
slavery sentiment, remained at home engaged in agriculture, thus 
releasing her entire white population for active service in the field; 
while, on the other hand, the military resources of the North were 
necessarily diminished by the demands of labor." 4 

It was as Frederick Douglass said in Boston in 1865, that the Civil 
War was begun "in the interests of slavery on both sides. The South 
was fighting to take slavery out of the Union, and the North fighting 
to keep it in the Union; the South fighting to get it beyond the limits 
of the United States Constitution, and the North fighting for the old 
guarantees; — both despising the Negro, both insulting the Negro." 

It was, therefore, at first by no means clear to most of the four mil- 
lion Negroes in slavery what this war might mean to them. They 
crouched consciously and moved silently, listening, hoping and hesi- 
tating. The watchfulness of the South was redoubled. They spread 
propaganda: the Yankees were not only not thinking of setting them 
free, but if they did anything, they would sell them into worse slavery 
in the West Indies. They would drive them from even the scant com- 
fort of the plantations into the highways and purlieus. Moreover, if 
they tried to emancipate the slaves, they would fail because they could 
not do this without conquest of the South. The South was unconquer- 

The South was not slow to spread propaganda and point to the 
wretched condition of fugitive Negroes in order to keep the loyalty 
of its indispensable labor force. The Charleston Daily Courier said 
February 18, 1863: "A company of volunteers having left Fayette 
County for the field of action, Mr. Nance sent two Negro boys along 
to aid the company. Their imaginations became dazzled with the 
visions of Elysian fields in Yankeedom and they went to find them. 
But Paradise was nowhere there, and they again sighed for home. 
The Yanks, however, detained them and cut off their ears close to 
their heads. These Negroes finally made their escape and are now at 
home with Mr. Nance in Pickens. They are violent haters of Yankees 
and their adventures and experiences are a terror to Negroes of the 
region, who learned a lesson from their brethren whose ears are left 
in Lincolndom!" 

The Charleston Mercury, May 8, 1862, said: "The Yankees are forti- 
fying Fernandina (Florida) and have a large number of Negroes 
engaged on their works. Whenever the Negroes have an opportunity, 


they escape from their oppressors. They report that they are worked 
hard, get little rest and food and no pay." 

The Savannah Daily News reports in 1862 that many stolen Negroes 
had been recaptured: "The Yankees had married a number of the 
women and were taking them home with them. I have seen some 
who refused to go and others who had been forced off at other times 
who had returned." 

It was a lovely dress parade of Alphonse and Gaston until the Negro 
spoiled it and in a perfectly logical way. So long as the Union stood 
still and talked, the Negro kept quiet and worked. The moment the 
Union army moved into slave territory, the Negro joined it. Despite 
all argument and calculation and in the face of refusals and com- 
mands, wherever the Union armies marched, appeared the fugitive 
slaves. It made no difference what the obstacles were, or the attitudes 
of the commanders. It was "like thrusting a walking stick into an ant- 
hill," says one writer. And yet the army chiefs at first tried to regard 
it as an exceptional and temporary matter, a thing which they could 
control, when as a matter of fact it was the meat and kernel of the 

Thus as the war went on and the invading armies came on, the way 
suddenly cleared for the onlooking Negro, for his spokesmen in the 
North, and for his silent listeners in the South. Each step, thereafter, 
came with curious, logical and inevitable fate. First there were the 
fugitive slaves. Slaves had always been running away to the North, 
and when the North grew hostile, on to Canada. It was the safety 
valve that kept down the chance of insurrection in the South to the 
lowest point. Suddenly, now, the chance to run away not only in- 
creased, but after preliminary repulse and hesitation, there was actual 

Not that the government planned or foresaw this eventuality; on the 
contrary, having repeatedly declared the object of the war as the 
preservation of the Union and that it did not propose to fight for 
slaves or touch slavery, it faced a stampede of fugitive slaves. 

Every step the Northern armies took then meant fugitive slaves. 
They crossed the Potomac, and the slaves of northern Virginia began 
to pour into the army and into Washington. They captured Fortress 
Monroe, and slaves from Virginia and even North Carolina poured 
into the army. They captured Port Royal, and the masters ran away, 
leaving droves of black fugitives in the hands of the Northern army. 
They moved down the Mississippi Valley, and if the slaves did not 
rush to the army, the army marched to the slaves. They captured New 
Orleans, and captured a great black city and a state full of slaves. 

What was to be done? They tried to send the slaves back, and even 


used the soldiers for recapturing them. This was all well enough as 
long as the war was a dress parade. But when it became real war, and 
slaves were captured or received, they could be used as much-needed 
laborers and servants by the Northern army. 

This but emphasized and made clearer a truth which ought, to have 
been recognized from the very beginning: The Southern worker, 
black and white, held the key to the war; and of the two groups, the 
black worker raising food and raw materials held an even more stra- 
tegic place than the white. This was so clear a fact that both sides 
should have known it. Fremont in Missouri took the logical action of 
freeing slaves of the enemy round about him by proclamation, and 
President Lincoln just as promptly repudiated what he had done. 
Even before that, General Butler in Virginia, commander of the 
Union forces at Fortress Monroe, met three slaves walking into his 
camp from the Confederate fortifications where they had been at 
work. Butler immediately declared these men "contraband of war" 
and put them to work in his own camp. More slaves followed, accom- 
panied by their wives and children. The situation here was not quite 
so logical. Nevertheless, Butler kept the fugitives and freed them and 
let them do what work they could; and his action was approved by 
the Secretary of War. 

"On May twenty-sixth, only two days after the one slave appeared 
before Butler, eight Negroes appeared; on the next day, forty-seven, 
of all ages and both sexes. Each day they continued to come by twen- 
ties, thirties and forties until by July 30th the number had reached nine 
hundred. In a very short while the number ran up into the thousands. 
The renowned Fortress took the name of the 'freedom fort' to which 
the blacks came by means of a 'mysterious spiritual telegraph.' " 5 

In December, 1861, the Secretary of the Treasury, Simon Cameron, 
had written, printed and put into the mails his first report as Secretary 
of War without consultation with the President. Possibly he knew that 
his recommendations would not be approved, but "he recommended 
the general arming of Negroes, declaring that the Federals had as 
clear a right to employ slaves taken from the enemy as to use captured 
gunpowder." This report was recalled by the President by telegraph 
and the statements of the Secretary were modified. The incident 
aroused some unpleasantness in the cabinet. 

The published report finally said: 

"Persons held by rebels, under such laws, to service as slaves, may, 
however, be justly liberated from their constraint, and made more 
valuable in various employments, through voluntary and compensated 
service, than if confiscated as subjects of property." 

Transforming itself suddenly from a problem of abandoned plan- 


tations and slaves captured while being used by the enemy for mili- 
tary purposes, the movement became a general strike against the slave 
system on the part of all who could find opportunity. The trickling 
streams of fugitives swelled to a flood. Once begun, the general strike 
of black and white went madly and relentlessly on like some great 

"Imagine, if you will, a slave population, springing from antecedent 
barbarism, rising up and leaving its ancient bondage, forsaking its 
local traditions and all the associations and attractions of the old plan- 
tation life, coming garbed in rags or in silks, with feet shod or bleed- 
ing, individually or in families and larger groups, — an army of slaves 
and fugitives, pushing its way irresistibly toward an army of fighting 
men, perpetually on the defensive and perpetually ready to attack. 
The arrival among us of these hordes was like the oncoming of cities. 
There was no plan in this exodus, no Moses to lead it. Unlettered 
reason or the mere inarticulate decision of instinct brought them to us. 
Often the slaves met prejudices against their color more bitter than 
any they had left behind. But their own interests were identical, they 
felt, with the objects of our armies; a blind terror stung them, an 
equally blind hope allured them, and to us they come." 6 

"Even before the close of 1862, many thousands of blacks of all ages, 
ragged, with no possessions, except the bundles which they carried, 
had assembled at Norfolk, Hampton, Alexandria and Washington. 
Others, landless, homeless, helpless, in families and in multitudes, in- 
cluding a considerable number of wretched white people, flocked 
North from Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri. All these 
were relieved in part by army rations, irregularly issued, and by volun- 
teer societies of the North, which gained their money from churches 
and individuals in this country and abroad. In the spring of 1863, there 
were swarming crowds of Negroes and white refugees along the line 
of defense made between the armies of the North and South and 
reaching from Maryland to Virginia, along the coast from Norfolk to 
New Orleans. Soldiers and missionaries told of their virtues and vices, 
their joy and extreme suffering. The North was moved to an extraor- 
dinary degree, and endless bodies of workers and missionaries were 
organized and collected funds for materials. 

"Rude barracks were erected at different points for the temporary 
shelter of the freedmen; but as soon as possible the colonies thus 
formed were broken up and the people encouraged to m,ake individual 
contracts for labor upon neighboring plantations. In connection with 
the colonies, farms were cultivated which aided to meet the expenses. 
Hospitals were established at various points for the sick, of whom 
there were great numbers. The separation of families by the war, and 


illegitimate birth in consequence of slavery, left a great number of 
children practically in a state of orphanage." 7 

This was the beginning of the swarming of the slaves, of the quiet 
but unswerving determination of increasing numbers no longer to 
work on Confederate plantations, and to seek the freedom of the 
Northern armies. Wherever the army marched and in spite of all ob- 
stacles came the rising tide of slaves seeking freedom. For a long time, 
their treatment was left largely to the discretion of the department 
managers; some welcomed them, some drove them away, some organ- 
ized them for work. Gradually, the fugitives became organized and 
formed a great labor force for the army. Several thousand were em- 
ployed as laborers, servants, and spies. 

A special war correspondent of the New York Tribune writes: 
"God bless the Negroes,' say I, with earnest lips. During our entire 
captivity, and after our escape, they were ever our firm, brave, un- 
flinching friends. We never made an appeal to them they did not an- 
swer. They never hesitated to do us a service at the risk even of life, 
and under the most trying circumstances revealed a devotion and a 
spirit of self-sacrifice that was heroic. The magic word 'Yankee' 
opened all their hearts, and elicited the loftiest virtues. They were 
ignorant, oppressed, enslaved; but they always cherished a simple and 
a beautiful faith in the cause of the Union and its ultimate triumph, 
and never abandoned or turned aside from a man who sought food 
or shelter on his way to Freedom." 8 

This whole move was not dramatic or hysterical, rather it was like 
the great unbroken swell of the ocean before it dashes on the reefs. 
The Negroes showed no disposition to strike the one terrible blow 
which brought black men freedom in Haiti and which in all history 
has been used by all slaves and justified. There were some plans for 
insurrection made by Union officers : 

"The plan is to induce the blacks to make a simultaneous move- 
ment of rising, on the night of the 1st of August next, over the entire 
States in rebellion, to arm themselves with any and every kind of 
weapon that may come to hand, and commence operations by burn- 
ing all the railroad and country bridges, and tear up railroad tracks, 
and to destroy telegraph lines, etc., and then take to the woods, 
swamps, or the mountains, where they may emerge as occasion may 
offer for provisions and for further depredations. No blood is to be 
shed except in self-defense. The corn will be ripe about the 1st of 
August and with this and hogs running in the woods, and by forag- 
ing upon the plantations by night, they can subsist. This is the plan 
in substance, and if we can obtain a concerted movement at the time 
named it will doubtless be successful." 9 


Such plans came to naught for the simple reason that there was an 
easier way involving freedom with less risk. 

The South preened itself on the absence of slave violence. Governor 
Walker of Florida said in his inaugural in 1865: "Where, in all the 
records of the past, does history present such an instance of steadfast 
devotion, unwavering attachment and constancy as was exhibited by 
the slaves of the South throughout the fearful contest that has just 
ended ? The country invaded, homes desolated, the master absent in the 
army or forced to seek safety in flight and leave the mistress and her 
helpless infants unprotected, with every incitement to insubordination 
and instigation, to rapine and murder, no instance of insurrection, and 
scarcely one of voluntary desertion has been recorded." 

The changes upon this theme have been rung by Southern orators 
many times since. The statement, of course, is not quite true. Hun- 
dreds of thousands of slaves were very evidently leaving their masters' 
homes and plantations. They did not wreak vengeance on unprotected 
women. They found an easier, more effective and more decent way 
to freedom. Men go wild and fight for freedom with bestial ferocity 
when they must — where there is no other way; but human nature 
does not deliberately choose blood — at least not black human nature. 
On the other hand, for every slave that escaped to the Union army, 
there were ten left on the untouched and inaccessible plantations. 

Another step was logical and inevitable. The men who handled a 
spade for the Northern armies, the men who fed them, and as spies 
brought in information, could also handle a gun and shoot. Without 
legal authority and in spite of it, suddenly the Negro became a soldier. 
Later his services as soldier were not only permitted but were de- 
manded to replace the tired and rebellious white men of the North. 
But as a soldier, the Negro must be free. 

The North started out with the idea of fighting the war without 
touching slavery. They faced the fact, after severe fighting, that Ne- 
groes seemed a valuable asset as laborers, and they therefore declared 
them "contraband of war." It was but a step from that to attract and 
induce Negro labor to help the Northern armies. Slaves were urged 
and invited into the Northern armies; they became military laborers 
and spies; not simply military laborers, but laborers on the plantations, 
where the crops went to help the Federal army or were sold North. 
Thus wherever Northern armies appeared, Negro laborers came, and 
the North found itself actually freeing slaves before it had the slight- 
est intention of doing so, indeed when it had every intention not to. 

The experience of the army with the refugees and the rise of the 
departments of Negro affairs were a most interesting, but unfortu- 
nately little studied, phase of Reconstruction. Yet it contained in a 


sense the key to the understanding of the whole situation. At first, the 
rush of the Negroes from the plantations came as a surprise and was 
variously interpreted. The easiest thing to say was that Negroes were 
tired of work and wanted to live at the expense of the government; 
wanted to travel and see things and places. But in contradiction to this 
was the extent of the movement and the terrible suffering of the refu- 
gees. If they were seeking peace and quiet, they were much better off 
on the plantations than trailing in the footsteps of the army or squat- 
ting miserably in the camps. They were mistreated by the soldiers; 
ridiculed; driven away, and yet they came. They increased with every 
campaign, and as a final gesture, they marched with Sherman from 
Atlanta to the sea, and met the refugees and abandoned human 
property on the Sea Islands and the Carolina Coast. 

This was not merely the desire to stop work. It was a strike on a 
wide basis against the conditions of work. It was a general strike that 
involved directly in the end perhaps a half million people. They 
wanted to stop the economy of the plantation system, and to do that 
they left the plantations. At first, the commanders were disposed to 
drive them away, or to give them quasi-freedom and let them do as 
they pleased with the nothing that they possessed. This did not work. 
Then the commanders organized relief and afterward, work. This 
came to the attention of the country first in Pierce's "Ten Thousand 
Clients." Pierce of Boston had worked with the refugees in Virginia 
under Butler, provided them with food and places to live, and given 
them jobs and land to cultivate. He was successful. He came from there, 
and, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, began the work 
on a vaster scale at Port Royal. Here he found the key to the situation. 
The Negroes were willing to work and did work, but they wanted 
land to work, and they wanted to see and own the results of their toil. 
It was here and in the West and the South that a new vista opened. 
Here was a chance to establish an agrarian democracy in the South: 
peasant holders of small properties, eager to work and raise crops, 
amenable to suggestion and general direction. All they needed was 
honesty in treatment, and education. Wherever these conditions were 
fulfilled, the result was little less than phenomenal. This was testified 
to by Pierce in the Carolinas, by Butler's agents in North Carolina, by 
the experiment of the Sea Islands, by Grant's department of Negro 
affairs under Eaton, and by Banks' direction of Negro labor in Louisi- 
ana. It is astonishing how this army of striking labor furnished in 
time 200,000 Federal soldiers whose evident ability to fight decided 
the war. 

General Butler went from Virginia to New Orleans to take charge 
of the city newly captured in April, 1862. Here was a whole city half- 


filled with blacks and mulattoes, some of them wealthy free Negroes 
and soldiers who came over from the Confederate side and joined the 

Perhaps the greatest and most systematic organizing of fugitives 
took place in New Orleans. At first, Butler had issued orders that no 
slaves would be received in New Orleans. Many planters were unable 
to make slaves work or to support them, and sent them back of the Fed- 
eral lines, planning to reclaim them after the war was over. Butler 
emancipated these slaves in spite of the fact that he knew this was 
against Lincoln's policy. As the flood kept coming, he seized abandoned 
sugar plantations and began to work them with Negro labor for the 
benefit of the government. 

By permission of the War Department, and under the authority of 
the Confiscation Act, Butler organized colonies of fugitives, and regu- 
lated employment. His brother, Colonel Butler, and others worked 
plantations, hiring the Negro labor. The Negroes stood at Butler's 
right hand during the trying time of his administration, and particu- 
larly the well-to-do free Negro group were his strongest allies. He was 
entertained at their tables and brought down on himself the wrath 
and contempt, not simply of the South, but even of the North. He 
received the black regiment, and kept their black officers, who never 
forgot him. Whatever else he might have been before the war, or 
proved to be afterwards, "the colored people of Louisiana under the 
proper sense of the good you have done to the African race in the 
United States, beg leave to express to you their gratitude." 

From 1862 to 1865, many different systems of caring for the escaped 
slaves and their families in this area were tried. Butler and his suc- 
cessor, Banks, each sought to provide for the thousands of destitute 
freedmen with medicine, rations and clothing. When General Banks 
took command, there was suffering, disease and death among the 
150,000 Negroes. On January 30, 1863, he issued a general order mak- 
ing labor on public works and elsewhere compulsory for Negroes who 
had no means of support. 

Just as soon, however, as Banks tried to drive the freedmen back to 
the plantations and have them work under a half-military slave 
regime, the plan failed. It failed, not because the Negroes did not 
want to work, but because they were striking against these particular 
conditions of work. When, because of wide protest, he began to look 
into the matter, he saw a clear way. He selected Negroes to go out 
and look into conditions and to report on what was needed, and they 
made a faithful survey. He set up a little state with its department of 
education, with its landholding and organized work, and after experi- 
ment it ran itself. More and more here and up the Mississippi Valley, 


under other commanders and agents, experiments extended and were 

Further up the Mississippi, a different system was begun under 
General Grant. Grant's army in the West occupied Grand Junction, 
Mississippi, by November, 1862. The usual irregular host of slaves 
then swarmed in from the surrounding country. They begged for pro- 
tection against recapture, and they, of course, needed food, clothing 
and shelter. They could not now be reenslaved through army aid, yet 
no provision had been made by anybody for their sustenance. A few 
were employed as teamsters, servants, cooks and scouts, yet it seemed 
as though the vast majority must be left to freeze and starve, for when 
the storms came with the winter months, the weather was of great 

Grant determined that Negroes should perform many of the camp 
duties ordinarily done by soldiers; that they should serve as fatigue 
men in the departments of the surgeon general, quartermaster, and 
commissary, and that they should help in building roads and earth- 
works. The women worked in the camp kitchens and as nurses in the 
hospitals. Grant said, "It was at this point where the first idea of the 
Freedmen's Bureau took its origin." 

Grant selected as head of his Department of Negro Affairs, John 
Eaton, chaplain of the Twenty-Seventh Ohio Volunteers, who was 
soon promoted to the colonelcy of a colored regiment, and later for 
many years was a Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Edu- 
cation. He was then constituted Chief of Negro Affairs for the entire 
district under Grant's jurisdiction. 

"I hope I may never be called on again to witness the horrrible 
scenes I saw in those first days of the history of the freedmen in the 
Mississippi Valley. Assistants were hard to get, especially the kind that 
would do any good in our camps. A detailed soldier in each camp of 
a thousand people was the best that could be done. His duties were so 
onerous that he ended by doing nothing. ... In reviewing the con- 
dition of the people at that time, I am not surprised at the marvelous 
stories told by visitors who caught an occasional glimpse of the misery 
and wretchedness in these camps. . . . Our efforts to do anything for 
these people, as they herded together in masses, when founded on any 
expectation that they would help themselves, often failed; they had 
become so completely broken down in spirit, through suffering, that 
it was almost impossible to arouse them. 

"Their condition was appalling. There were men, women and chil- 
dren in every stage of disease or decrepitude, often nearly naked, with 
flesh torn by the terrible experiences of their escapes. Sometimes they 
were intelligent and eager to help themselves; often they were be- 


wildered or stupid or possessed by the wildest notions of what liberty 
might mean — expecting to exchange labor, and obedience to the will 
of another, for idleness and freedom from restraint. Such ignorance 
and perverted notions produced a veritable moral chaos. Cringing 
deceit, theft, licentiousness — all the vices which slavery inevitably fos- 
ters — were hideous companions of nakedness, famine, and disease. A 
few had profited by the misfortunes of the master and were jubilant 
in their unwonted ease and luxury, but these stood in lurid contrast to 
the grimmer aspects of the tragedy — the women in travail, the help- 
lessness of childhood and of old age, the horrors of sickness and of 
frequent death. Small wonder that men paused in bewilderment and 
panic, foreseeing the demoralization and infection of the Union sol- 
dier and the downfall of the Union cause." 10 

There were new and strange problems of social contact. The white 
soldiers, for the most part, were opposed to serving Negroes in any 
manner, and were even unwilling to guard the camps where they 
were segregated or protect them against violence. "To undertake any 
form of work for the contrabands, at that time, was to be forsaken by 
one's friends and to pass under a cloud." u 

There was, however, a clear economic basis upon which the whole 
work of relief and order and subsistence could be placed. All around 
Grand Junction were large crops of ungathered corn and cotton. These 
were harvested and sold North and the receipts were placed to the 
credit of the government. The army of fugitives were soon willing to 
go to work; men, women and children. Wood was needed by the 
river steamers and woodcutters were set at work. Eaton fixed the wages 
for this industry and kept accounts with the workers. He saw to. it 
that all of them had sufficient food and clothing, and rough shelter 
was built for them. Citizens round about who had not abandoned 
their plantations were allowed to hire labor on the same terms as the 
government was using it. Very soon the freedmen became self-sustain- 
ing and gave little trouble. They began to build themselves comfort- 
able cabins, and the government constructed hospitals for the sick. In 
the case of the sick and dependent, a tax was laid on the wages of 
workers. At first it was thought the laborers would object, but, on the 
contrary, they were perfectly willing and the imposition of the tax 
compelled the government to see that wages were promptly paid. The 
freedmen freely acknowledged that they ought to assist in helping 
bear the burden of the poor, and were flattered by having the govern- 
ment ask their help. It was the reaction of a new labor group, who, 
for the first time in their lives, were receiving money in payment for 
their work. Five thousand dollars was raised by this tax for hospitals, 
and with this money tools and property were bought. By wholesale 


purchase, clothes, household goods and other articles were secured by 
the freedmen at a cost of one-third of what they might have paid the 
stores. There was a rigid system of accounts and monthly reports 
through army officials. 

In 1864, July 5, Eaton reports: "These freedmen are now disposed 
of as follows: In military service as soldiers, laundresses, cooks, offi- 
cers' servants, and laborers in the various staff departments, 41,150; 
in cities on plantations and in freedmen's villages and cared for, 
72,500. Of these 62,300 are entirely self-supporting — the same as any 
industrial class anywhere else — as planters, mechanics, barbers, hack- 
men, draymen, etc., conducting enterprises on their own responsibility 
or working as hired laborers. The remaining 10,200 receive subsistence 
from the government. 3,000 of them are members of families whose 
heads are carrying on plantations and have under cultivation 4,000 
acres of cotton. They, are to pay the government for their sustenance 
from the first income of the crop. The other 7,200 include the pau- 
pers — that is to say, all Negroes over and under the self-supporting 
age, the crippled and sick in hospital, of the 113,650 and those engaged 
in their care. Instead of being unproductive, this class has now under 
cultivation 500 acres of corn, 790 acres of vegetables and 1,500 acres of 
cotton, besides working at wood-chopping and other industries. There 
are reported in the aggregate over 100,000 acres of cotton under cul- 
tivation. Of these about 7,000 acres are leased and cultivated by blacks. 
Some Negroes are managing as high as 300 or 400 acres." 

The experiment at Davis Bend, Mississippi, was of especial interest. 
The place was occupied in November and December, 1864, and pri- 
vate interests were displaced and an interesting socialistic effort made 
with all the property under the control of the government. The Bend 
was divided into districts with Negro sheriffs and judges who were 
allowed to exercise authority under the general control of the military 
officers. Petty theft and idleness were soon reduced to a minimum and 
"the community distinctly demonstrated the capacity of the Negro to 
take care of himself and exercise under honest and competent direc- 
tion the functions of self-government." 12 

When General Butler returned from Louisiana and resumed com- 
mand in Virginia and North Carolina, he established there a Depart- 
ment of Negro Affairs, with the territory divided into districts under 
superintendents and assistants. Negroes were encouraged to buy land, 
build cabins and form settlements, and a system of education was 
established. In North Carolina, under Chaplain Horace James, the 
poor, both black and white, were helped; the refugees were grouped 
in small villages and their work systematized, and enlisted men taught 
in the schools, followed by women teachers from the North. Outside 


of New Bern, North Carolina, about two thousand freedmen were 
settled and 800 houses erected. The department at Port Royal con- 
tinued. The Negroes showed their capacity to organize labor and even 
to save and employ a little capital. The government built 21 houses 
for the people on Edisto Island. The carpenters were Negroes under 
a Negro foreman. There was another village of improved houses near 
Hilton Head. 

"Next as to the development of manhood: this has been shown in 
the first place in the prevalent disposition to acquire land. It did not 
appear upon our first introduction to these people, and they did not 
seem to understand us when we used to tell them that we wanted 
them to own land. But it is now an active desire. At the recent tax 
sales, six out of forty-seven plantations sold were bought by them, 
comprising two thousand five hundred and ninety-five acres, sold for 
twenty-one hundred and forty-five dollars. In other cases, the Negroes 
had authorized the superintendent to bid for them, but the land was 
reserved by the United States. One of the purchases was that made by 
Harry, noted above. The other five were made by the Negroes on the 
plantations, combining the funds they had saved from the sale of their 
pigs, chickens and eggs, and from the payments made to them for 
work, — they then dividing off the tract peaceably among themselves. 
On one of these, where Kit, before mentioned, is the leading spirit, 
there are twenty-three fieldhands. They have planted and are culti- 
vating sixty-three acres of cotton, fifty of corn, six of potatoes, with as 
many more to be planted, four and a half of cowpeas, three of pea- 
nuts, and one and a half of rice. These facts are most significant." 13 

Under General Saxton in South Carolina, the Negroes began to buy 
land which was sold for non-payment of taxes. Saxton established 
regulations for the cultivation of several abandoned Sea Islands and 
appointed local superintendents. 

"By the payment of moderate wages, and just and fair dealing with 
them, I produced for the government over a half million dollars' worth 
of cotton, besides a large amount of food beyond the needs of the 
laborers. These island lands were cultivated in this way for two years, 
1862 and 1863, under my supervision, and during that time I had 
about 15,000 colored freedmen of all ages in my charge. About 9,000 
of these were engaged on productive labor which relieved the govern- 
ment of the support of all except newly-arrived refugees from the 
enemy's lines and the old and infirm who had no relations to depend 
upon. The increase of industry and thrift of the freedmen was illus- 
trated by their conduct in South Carolina before the organization of 
the Freedmen's Bureau by the decreasing government expenditure for 
their support. The expense in the department of the South in 1863 was 


$41,544, but the monthly expense of that year was steadily reduced, 
until in December it was less than $1,000." 14 

Into this fairly successful land and labor control was precipitated a 
vast and unexpected flood of refugees from previously untouched 
strongholds of slavery. Sherman made his march to the sea from At- 
lanta, cutting the cotton kingdom in two as Grant had invaded it 
along the Mississippi. 

"The first intimation given me that many of the freedmen would 
be brought hither from Savannah came in the form of a request from 
the General that I would 'call at once to plan the reception of seven 
hundred who would be at the wharf in an hour.' This was Christmas 
day, and at 4 p.m., we had seven hundred — mainly women, old men 
and children before us. A canvass since made shows that half of them 
had traveled from Macon, Atlanta and even Chattanooga. They were 
all utterly destitute of blankets, stockings or shoes; and among the 
seven hundred there were not fifty articles in the shape of pots or ket- 
tles, or other utensils for cooking, no axes, very few coverings for many 
heads, and children wrapped in the only article not worn in some 
form by the parents." Frantic appeals went out for the mass of Negro 
refugees who followed him. 

A few days after Sherman entered Savannah, Secretary of War 
Stanton came in person from Washington. He examined the condition 
of the liberated Negroes found in that city. He assembled twenty of 
those who were deemed their leaders. Among them were barbers, 
pilots and sailors, some ministers, and others who had been overseers 
on cotton and rice plantations. Mr. Stanton and General Sherman 
gave them a hearing. 

As a result of this investigation into the perplexing problems as to 
what to do with the growing masses of unemployed Negroes and 
their families, General Sherman issued his epoch-making Sea Island 
Circular, January 18, 1865. In this paper, the islands from Charleston 
south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back 
from the sea and the country bordering the St. John's River, Florida, 
were reserved for the settlement of the Negroes made free by the acts 
of war and the proclamation of the President. 

General Rufus Saxton was appointed Inspector of Settlements and 
Plantations and was required to make proper allotments and give 
possessory titles and defend them until Congress should confirm his 
actions. It was a bold move. Thousands of Negro families were dis- 
tributed under this circular, and the freed people regarded themselves 
for more than six months as in permanent possession of these aban- 
doned lands. Taxes on the freedmen furnished most of the funds to 
run these first experiments. On all plantations, whether owned or 


leased, where freedmen were employed, a tax of one cent per pound 
on cotton and a proportional amount on all other products was to be 
collected as a contribution in support of the helpless among the freed 
people. A similar tax, varying with the value of the property, was 
levied by the government upon all leased plantations in lieu of rent. 

Saxton testified: "General Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15 
ordered their colonization on forty-acre tracts, and in accordance with 
which it is estimated some forty thousand were provided with homes. 
Public meetings were held, and every exertion used by those whose 
duty it was to execute this order to encourage emigration to the Sea 
Islands, and the faith of the government was solemnly pledged to 
maintain them in possession. The greatest success attended the experi- 
ment, and although the planting season was very far advanced before 
the transportation to carry the colonists to the Sea Islands could be 
obtained, and the people were destitute of animals and had but few 
agricultural implements and the greatest difficulty in procuring seeds, 
yet they went out, worked with energy and diligence to clear up the 
ground run to waste by three years' neglect; and thousands of acres 
were planted and provisions enough were raised for those who were 
located in season to plant, besides a large amount of sea island cotton 
for market. The seizure of some 549,000 acres of abandoned land, in 
accordance with the act of Congress and orders from the head of the 
bureau for the freedman and refugees, still further strengthened these 
ignorant people in the conviction that they were to have the lands of 
their late masters; and, with the other reasons before stated, caused 
a great unwillingness on the part of the freedmen to make any con- 
tracts whatever. But this refusal arises from no desire on their part to 
avoid labor, but from the causes above stated. . . . 

"To test the question of their forethought and prove that some of 
the race at least thought of the future, I established in October, 1864, 
a savings bank for the freedmen of Beaufort district and vicinity. More 
than $240,000 had been deposited in this bank by freedmen since its 
establishment. I consider that the industrial problem has been satis- 
factorily solved at Port Royal, and that, in common with other races, 
the Negro has industry, prudence, forethought, and ability to calculate 
results. Many of them have managed plantations for themselves, and 
show an industry and sagacity that will compare favorably in their 
results — making due allowances — with those of white men." 

Eventually, General Saxton settled nearly 30,000 Negroes on the Sea 
Islands and adjacent plantations and 17,000 were self-supporting 
within a year. While 12,000 or 13,000 were still receiving rations, it 
was distinctly understood that they and their farms would be held 


responsible for the payment. In other such cases, the government had 
found that such a debt was a "safe and short one." 

Negroes worked fewer hours and had more time for self-expression. 
Exports were less than during slavery. At that time the Negroes were 
mere machines run with as little loss as possible to the single end of 
making money for their masters. Now, as it was in the West Indies, 
emancipation had enlarged the Negro's purchasing power, but instead 
of producing solely for export, he was producing to consume. His 
standard of living was rising. 

Along with this work of the army, the Treasury Department of 
the United States Government was bestirring itself. The Secretary of 
the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, early in 1862, had his attention called 
to the accumulation of cotton on the abandoned Sea Islands and plan- 
tations, and was sure there was an opportunity to raise more. He, 
therefore, began the organization of freedmen for cotton raising, and 
his successor, William Pitt Fessenden, inaugurated more extensive 
plans for the freedmen in all parts of the South, appointing agents and 
organizing freedmen's home colonies. 

On June 7, 1862, Congress held portions of the states in rebellion 
responsible for a direct tax upon the lands of the nation, and in addi- 
tion Congress passed an act authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury 
to appoint special agents to take charge of captured and abandoned 
property. Military officers turned over to the Treasury Department 
such property, and the plantations around Port Royal and Beaufort 
were disposed of at tax sales. Some were purchased by Negroes, but the 
greater number went to Northerners. In the same way in North Caro- 
lina, some turpentine farms were let to Negroes, who managed them, 
or to whites who employed Negroes. In 1863, September 11, the whole 
Southern region was divided by the Treasury Department into five 
special agencies, each with a supervising agent for the supervision of 
abandoned property and labor. 

Early in 1863, General Lorenzo Thomas, the adjutant general of the 
army, was organizing colored troops along the Mississippi River. After 
consulting various treasury agents and department commanders, in- 
cluding General Grant, and having also the approval of Mr. Lincoln, 
he issued from Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, April 15th, a lengthy series 
of instruction covering the territory bordering the Mississippi and in- 
cluding all the inhabitants. 

He appointed three commissioners, Messrs. Field, Shickle and Liver- 
more, to lease plantations and care for the employees. He sought to 
encourage private enterprises instead of government colonies; but he 
fixed the wages of able-bodied men over fifteen years of age at $7 per 
month, for able-bodied women $5 per month, for children twelve to 


fifteen years, half price. He laid a tax for revenue of $2 per 400 pounds 
of cotton, and five cents per bushel on corn and potatoes. 

This plan naturally did not work well, for the lessees of plantations 
proved to be for the most part adventurers and speculators. Of course 
such men took advantage of the ignorant people. The commissioners 
themselves seem to have done more for the lessees than for the labor- 
ers; and, in fact, the wages were from the beginning so fixed as to 
benefit and enrich the employer. Two dollars per month was charged 
against each of the employed, ostensibly for medical attendance, but 
to most plantations thus leased no physician or medicine ever came, 
and there were other attendant cruelties which avarice contrived. 

On fifteen plantations leased by the Negroes themselves in this re- 
gion there was notable success, and also a few other instances in 
which humanity and good sense reigned; the contracts were generally 
carried out. Here the Negroes were contented and grateful, and were 
able to lay by small gains. This plantation arrangement along the 
Mississippi under the commissioners as well as the management of 
numerous infirmary camps passed, about the close of 1863, from the 
War to the Treasury Department. A new commission or agency with 
Mr. W. P. Mellon of the treasury at the head established more careful 
and complete regulations than those of General Thomas. This time it 
was done decidedly in the interest of the laborers. 

July 2, 1864, an Act of Congress authorized the treasury agents to 
seize and lease for one year all captured and abandoned estates and 
to provide for the welfare of former slaves. Property was declared 
abandoned when the lawful owner was opposed to paying the reve- 
nue. The Secretary of the Treasury, Fessenden, therefore issued a new 
series of regulations relating to freedmen and abandoned property. 
The rebellious States were divided into seven districts, with a general 
agent and special agents. Certain tracts of land in each district were 
set apart for the exclusive use and working of the freedmen. These 
reservations were called Freedmen Labor Colonies, and were under 
the direction of the superintendents. Schools were established, both in 
the Home Colonies and in the labor colonies. This new system went 
into operation the winter of 1 864-1 865, and worked well along the 
Atlantic Coast and Mississippi Valley. In the Department of the Gulf, 
however, there was discord between the treasury agents and the mili- 
tary authorities, and among the treasury officials themselves. The treas- 
ury agents, in many cases, became corrupt, but these regulations 
remained in force until the Freedmen's Bureau was organized in 1865. 

By 1865, there was strong testimony as to the efficiency of the Negro 
worker. "The question of the freedmen being self-supporting no longer 
agitated the minds of careful observers." 


Carl Schurz felt warranted in 1865 in asserting: "Many freedmen — 
not single individuals, but whole 'plantation gangs' — are working 
well; others are not. The difference in their efficiency coincides in a 
great measure with a certain difference in the conditions under which 
they live. The conclusion lies near, that if the conditions under which 
they work well become general, their efficiency as free laborers will 
become general also, aside from individual exceptions. Certain it is, 
that by far the larger portion of the work done in the South is done 
by freedmen!" 

Whitelaw Reid said in 1865: "Whoever has read what I have writ- 
ten about the cotton fields of St. Helena will need no assurance that 
another cardinal sin of the slave, his laziness — 'inborn and ineradica- 
ble,' as we were always told by his masters — is likewise disappearing 
under the stimulus of freedom and necessity. Dishonesty and indo- 
lence, then, were the creation of slavery, not the necessary and constitu- 
tional faults of the Negro character." 

"Returning from St. Helena in 1865, Doctor Richard Fuller was 
asked what he thought of the experiment of free labor, as exhibited 
among his former slaves, and how it contrasted with the old order 
of things. 'I never saw St. Helena look so well,' was his instant reply; 
'never saw as much land there under cultivation — never saw the same 
general evidences of prosperity, and never saw Negroes themselves 
appearing so well or so contented.' Others noticed, however, that the 
islands about Beaufort were in a better condition than those nearer the 
encampments of the United States soldiers. Wherever poultry could be 
profitably peddled in the camps, cotton had not been grown, nor 
had the Negroes developed, so readily, into industrious and orderly 
communities." 15 Similar testimony came from the. Mississippi Valley 
and the West, and from Border States like Virginia and North Caro- 

To the aid of the government, and even before the government 
took definite organized hold, came religious and benevolent organiza- 
tions. The first was the American Missionary Association, which grew 
out of the organization for the defense of the Negroes who rebelled 
and captured the slave ship Amistad and brought it into Connecticut 
in 1837. When this association heard from Butler and Pierce, it 
responded promptly and had several representatives at Hampton and 
South Carolina before the end of the year 1861. They extended their 
work in 1 862-1 863, establishing missions down the Atlantic Coast, and 
in Missouri, and along the Mississippi. By 1864, they had reached 
the Negroes in nearly all the Southern States. The reports of Pierce, 
Dupont and Sherman aroused the whole North. Churches and mis- 
sionary societies responded. The Friends contributed. The work of 


the Northern benevolent societies began to be felt, and money, cloth- 
ing and, finally, men and women as helpers and teachers came to the 
various centers. 

"The scope of our work was greatly enlarged by the arrival of white 
refugees — a movement which later assumed very large proportions. 
As time went on Cairo (Illinois) became the center of our activities 
in this direction. It was the most northerly of any of our camps, and 
served as the portal through which thousands of poor whites and 
Negroes were sent into the loyal states as fast as opportunities offered 
for providing them with homes and employment. Many of these be- 
came permanent residents; some were sent home by Union soldiers 
to carry on the work in the shop or on the farm which the war had 
interrupted. It became necessary to have a superintendent at Cairo 
and facilities for organizing the bands of refugees who were sent 
North by the army. There was an increasing demand for work." 16 

New organizations arose, and an educational commission was or- 
ganized in Boston, suggested by the reports of Pierce, and worked 
chiefly in South Carolina. Afterward, it became the New England 
Freedmen's Aid Society and worked in all the Southern States. Febru- 
ary 22, 1862, the National Freedmen's Relief Association was formed 
in New York City. During the first year, it worked on the Atlantic 
Coast, and then broadened to the whole South. The Port Royal Relief 
Committee of Philadelphia, later known as the Pennsylvania Freed- 
men's Relief Association, the National Freedmen's Relief Association 
of the District of Columbia, the Contraband Relief Association of 
Cincinnati, afterward called the Western Freedmen's Commission, the 
Women's Aid Association of Philadelphia and the Friends' Associa- 
tions, all arose and worked. The number increased and extended into 
the Northwest. The Christian Commission, organized for the benefit 
of soldiers, turned its attention to Negroes. In England, at Manchester 
and London, were Freedmen's Aid Societies which raised funds; and 
funds were received from France and Ireland. 

Naturally, there was much rivalry and duplication of work. A 
union of effort was suggested in 1862 by the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury and accomplished March 22, 1865, when the American Freed- 
men's Union Commission was incorporated, with branches in the 
chief cities. Among its officers were Chief Justice Chase and William 
Lloyd Garrison. In 1861, two large voluntary organizations to reduce 
suffering and mortality among the freedmen were formed. The 
Western Sanitary Commission at St. Louis, and the United States 
Sanitary Commission at Washington, with branches in leading cities, 
then began to relieve the distress of the freedmen. Hospitals were 
improved, supplies distributed, and Yeatman's plan for labor devised. 


Destitute white refugees were helped to a large extent. But even then, 
all of these efforts reached but a small portion of the mass of people 
freed from slavery. 

Late in 1863, President Yeatman of the Western Sanitary Commis- 
sion visited the freedmen in the Mississippi Valley. He saw the 
abuses of the leasing system and suggested a plan for organizing free 
labor and leasing plantations. It provided for a bureau established 
by the government to take charge of leasing land, to secure justice 
and freedom to the freedmen ; hospital farms and homes for the young 
and aged were to be established; schools with compulsory attendance 
were to be opened. Yeatman accompanied Mellon, the agent of the 
department, to Vicksburg in order to inaugurate the plan and carry 
it into effect. His plan was adopted by Mellon, and was, on the whole, 
the most satisfactory. 

Thus, confusion and lack of system were the natural result of the 
general strike. Yet, the Negroes had accomplished their first aim in 
those parts of the South dominated by the Federal army. They had 
largely escaped from the plantation discipline, were receiving wages 
as free laborers, and had protection from violence and justice in some 
sort of court. 

About 20,000 of them were in the District of Columbia; 100,000 in 
Virginia; 50,000 in North Carolina; 50,000 in South Carolina, and 
as many more each in Georgia and Louisiana. The Valley of the 
Mississippi was filled with settlers under the Treasury Department 
and the army. Here were nearly 500,000 former slaves. But there were 
3,500,000 more. These Negroes needed only the assurance that they 
would be freed and the opportunity of joining the Northern army. 
In larger and larger numbers, they filtered into the armies of the 
North. And in just the proportion that the Northern armies became 
in earnest, and proposed actually to force the South to stay in the 
Union, and not to make simply a demonstration, in just such propor- 
tion the Negroes became valuable as laborers, and doubly valuable 
as withdrawing labor from the South. After the first foolish year 
when the South woke up to the fact that there was going to be a real, 
long war, and the North realized just what war meant in blood and 
money, the whole relation of the North to the Negro and the Negro 
to the North changed. 

The position of the Negro was strategic. His was the only appeal 
which would bring sympathy from Europe, despite strong economic 
bonds with the South, and prevent recognition of a Southern nation 
built on slavery. The free Negroes in the North, together with the 
Abolitionists, were clamoring. To them a war against the South 
simply had to be a war against slavery. Gradually, Abolitionists no 


longer need fear the mob. Disgruntled leaders of church and state 
began to talk of freedom. Slowly but surely an economic dispute and 
a political test of strength took on the aspects of a great moral crusade. 

The Negro became in the first year contraband of war; that is, 
property belonging to the enemy and valuable to the invader. And 
in addition to that, he became, as the South quickly saw, the key 
to Southern resistance. Either these four million laborers remained 
quietly at work to raise food for the fighters, or the fighter starved. 
Simultaneously, when the dream of the North for man-power pro- 
duced riots, the only additional troops that the North could depend 
on were 200,000 Negroes, for without them, as Lincoln said, the North 
could not have won the war. 

But this slow, stubborn mutiny of the Negro slave was not merely 
a matter of 200,000 black soldiers and perhaps 300,000 other black 
laborers, servants, spies and helpers. Back of this half million stood 
3V2 million more. Without their labor the South would starve. With 
arms in their hands, Negroes would form a fighting force which could 
replace every single Northern white soldier fighting listlessly and 
against his will with a black man fighting for freedom. 

This action of the slaves was followed by the disaffection of the 
poor whites. So long as the planters' war seemed successful, "there was 
little active opposition by the poorer whites; but the conscription and 
other burdens to support a slaveowners' war became very severe; the 
whites not interested in that cause became recalcitrant, some went 
into active opposition; and at last it was more desertion and disunion 
than anything else that brought about the final overthrow." 17 

Phillips says that white mechanics in 1861 demanded that the per- 
manent Confederate Constitution exclude Negroes from employ- 
ment "except agricultural domestic service, so as to reserve the trades 
for white artisans." Beyond this, of course, was a more subtle reason 
that, as the years went on, very carefully developed and encouraged 
for a time the racial aspect of slavery. Before the war, there had been 
intermingling of white and black blood and some white planters 
openly recognized their colored sons, daughters and cousins and took 
them under their special protection. As slavery hardened, the racial 
basis was emphasized; but it was not until war time that it became the 
fashion to pat the disfranchised poor white man on the back and tell 
him after all he was white and that he and the planters had a common 
object in keeping the white man superior. This virus increased bitter- 
ness and relentless hatred, and after the war it became a chief in- 
gredient in the division of the working class in the Southern States. 

At the same time during the war even the race argument did not 
keep the Southern fighters from noticing with anger that the big 


slaveholders were escaping military service; that it was a "rich man's 
war and the poor man's fight." The exemption of owners of twenty 
Negroes from military service especially rankled; and the wholesale 
withdrawal of the slaveholding class from actual fighting which this 
rule made possible, gave rise to intense and growing dissatisfaction. 

It was necessary during these critical times to insist more than usual 
that slavery was a fine thing for the poor white. Except for slavery, 
it was said : " 'The poor would occupy the position in society that the 
slaves do — as the poor in the North and in Europe do,' for there 
must be a menial class in society and in 'every civilized country on 
the globe, besides the Confederate states, the poor are the inferiors 
and menials of the rich.' Slavery was a greater blessing to the non- 
slaveholding poor than to the owners of slaves, and since it gave the 
poor a start in society that it would take them generations to work 
out, they should thank God for it and fight and die for it as they 
would for their 'own liberty and the dearest birthright of freemen.' " 18 

But the poor whites were losing faith. They saw that poverty was 
fighting the war, not wealth. 

"Those who could stay out of the army under color of the law were 
likely to be advocates of a more numerous and powerful army. . . . 
Not so with many of those who were not favored with position and 
wealth. They grudgingly took up arms and condemned the law which 
had snatched them from their homes. . . . The only difference was 
the circumstance of position and wealth, and perhaps these were just 
the things that had caused heartburnings in more peaceful times. 

"The sentiments of thousands in the upland countries, who had 
little interest in the war and who were not accustomed to rigid 
centralized control, was probably well expressed in the following 
epistle addressed to President Davis by a conscript. . . . 

". . . 'It is with intense and multifariously proud satisfaction that 
he [the conscript] gazes for the last time upon our holy flag — that 
symbol and sign of an adored trinity, cotton, niggers and chivalry.' " 19 

This attitude of the poor whites had in it as much fear and jealousy 

of Negroes as disaffection with slave barons. Economic rivalry with 

! blacks became a new and living threat as the blacks became laborers 

I and soldiers in a conquering Northern army. If the Negro was to be 

j free where would the poor white be? Why should he fight against 

the blacks and his victorious friends? The poor white not only began 

to desert and run away; but thousands followed the Negro into the 

Northern camps. 

Meantime, with perplexed and laggard steps, the United States Gov- 
ernment followed the footsteps of the black slave. It made no differ- 
ence how much Abraham Lincoln might protest that this was not a 


war against slavery, or ask General McDowell "if it would not be 
well to allow the armies to bring back those fugitive slaves which 
have crossed the Potomac with our troops" (a communication 
which was marked "secret"). It was in vain that Lincoln rushed 
entreaties and then commands to Fremont in Missouri, not to emanci- 
pate the slaves of rebels, and then had to hasten similar orders to 
Hunter in South Carolina. The slave, despite every effort, was becom- 
ing the center of war. Lincoln, with his uncanny insight, began to see 
it. He began to talk about compensation for emancipated slaves, and 
Congress, following almost too quickly, passed the Confiscation Act 
in August, 1861, freeing slaves which were actually used in war by 
the enemy. Lincoln then suggested that provision be made for colo- 
nization of such slaves. He simply could not envisage free Negroes in 
the United States. What would become of them? What would they 
do? Meantime, the slave kept looming. New Orleans was captured 
and the whole black population of Louisiana began streaming toward 
it. When Vicksburg fell, the center of perhaps the vastest Negro popu- 
lation in North America was tapped. They rushed into the Union 
lines. Still Lincoln held off and watched symptoms. Greeley's "Prayer 
of Twenty Millions" received the curt answer, less than a year before 
Emancipation, that the war was not to abolish slavery, and if Lincoln 
could hold the country together and keep slavery, he would do it. 

But he could not, and he had no sooner said this than he began 
to realize that he could not. In June, 1862, slavery was abolished in 
the territories. Compensation with possible colonization was planned 
for the District of Columbia. Representatives and Senators from the 
Border States were brought together to talk about extending this 
plan to their states, but they hesitated. 

In August, Lincoln faced the truth, front forward; and that truth 
was not simply that Negroes ought to be free; it was that thousands 
of them were already free, and that either the power which slaves 
put into the hands of the South was to be taken from it, or the North 
could not win the war. Either the Negro was to be allowed to fight, 
or the draft itself would not bring enough white men into the army 
to keep up the war. 

More than that, unless the North faced the world with the moral 
strength of declaring openly that they were fighting for the emancipa- 
tion of slaves, they would probably find that the world would recog- 
nize the South as a separate nation; that ports would be opened; that 
trade would begin, and that despite all the military advantage of the 
North, the war would be lost. 

In August, 1862, Lincoln discussed Emancipation as a military 
measure; in September, he issued his preliminary proclamation; on 


January 1, 1863, he declared that the slaves of all persons in rebellion 
were "henceforward and forever free." 

The guns at Sumter, the marching armies, the fugitive slaves, the 
fugitives as "contrabands," spies, servants and laborers; the Negro as 
soldier, as citizen, as voter — these steps came from 1861 to 1868 with 
regular beat that was almost rhythmic. It was the price of the dis- 
aster of war, and it was a price that few Americans at first dreamed 
of paying or wanted to pay. The North was not Abolitionist. It was 
overwhelmingly in favor of Negro slavery, so long as this did not inter- 
fere with Northern moneymaking. But, on the other hand, there 
was a minority of the North who hated slavery with perfect hatred; 
who wanted no union with slaveholders; who fought for freedom 
and treated Negroes as men. As the Abolition-democracy gained in 
prestige and in power, they appeared as prophets, and led by states- 
men, they began to guide the nation out of the morass into which 
it had fallen. They and their black friends and the new freedmen 
became gradually the leaders of a Reconstruction of Democracy in 
the United States, while marching millions sang the noblest war-song 
of the ages to the tune of "John Brown's Body": 

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, 
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, 
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword, 
His Truth is marching on! 

1. Public Opinion Before and After the Civil War, p. 4. 

2. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, p. 244. 

3. Oberholtzer, Abraham Lincoln, p. 263. 

4. Results of Emancipation in the United States of America by a Committee of the 

American Freedman's Union Commission in 1867, p. 6. 

5. Journal of Negro History, X, p. 134. 

6. Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen, p. 2. 

7. Results of Emancipation in the United States of America by a Committee of the 

American Freedman's Union Commission in 1867, p. 21. 

8. Brown, Four Years in Secessia, p. 368. 

9. Ashe and Tyler, Secession, Insurrection of the Negroes, and Northern Incendiarism, 

p. 12. 

10. Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen, pp. 2, 3, 19, 22, 134. 

11. Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen, p. 22. 

12. Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen, p. 166. 

13. Pierce, "Freedmen at Port Royal," Atlantic Monthly, XII, p. 310. 

14. Testimony Before Reconstruction Committee, February 21, 1866, Part II, p. 221. 

15. Taylor, Reconstruction in South Carolina, pp. 29, 30. 

16. Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen, pp. 37, 38. 

17. Campbell, Black, and White in the Southern States, p. 165. 

18. Moore, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy, p. 145. 

19. Moore, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy, pp. 18-20. 


How the Negro became free because the North could not win 

the Civil War if he remained in slavery. And how arms in his 

hands, and the prospect of arms in a million more black hands, 

brought peace and emancipation to America 

Three movements, partly simultaneous and partly successive, are 
treated in different chapters. In the last chapter, we chronicled the 
swarming of the slaves to meet the approaching Union armies; in 
this we consider how these slaves were transformed in part from 
laborers to soldiers fighting for their own freedom; and in succeed- 
ing chapters, we shall treat the organization of free labor after the war. 

In the ears of the world, Abraham Lincoln on the first of January, 
1863, declared four million slaves "thenceforward and forever free." 
The truth was less than this. The Emancipation Proclamation applied 
only to the slaves of those states or parts of states still in rebellion 
against the United States government. Hundreds of thousands of such 
slaves were already free by their own action and that of the invading 
armies, and in their cases, Lincoln's proclamation only added possible 
legal sanction to an accomplished fact. 

To the majority of slaves still within the Confederate lines, the 
proclamation would apply only if they followed the fugitives. And 
this Abraham Lincoln determined to induce them to do, and thus 
to break the back of the rebellion by depriving the South of its princi- 
pal labor force. 

Emancipation had thus two ulterior objects. It was designed to 
make easier the replacement of unwilling Northern white soldiers 
with black soldiers; and it sought to put behind the war a new push 
toward Northern victory by the mighty impact of a great moral ideal, 
both in the North and in Europe. 

This national right-about-face had been gradually and carefully ac- 
complished only by the consummate tact of a leader of men who went 
no faster than his nation marched but just as fast; and also by the 
unwearying will of the Abolitionists, who forced the nation onward. 

Wendell Phillips said in Washington in 1862: 

"Gentlemen of Washington! You have spent for us two million 
dollars per day. You bury two regiments a month, two thousand men 
by disease without battle. You rob every laboring man of one-half of 



his pay for the next thirty years by your taxes. You place the curse 
of intolerable taxation on every cradle for the next generation. What 
do you give us in return? What is the other side of the balance sheet? 
The North has poured out its blood and money like water; it has 
leveled every fence of constitutional privilege, and Abraham Lincoln 
sits today a more unlimited despot than the world knows this side of 
China. What does he render the North for this unbounded confi- 
dence? Show us something; or I tell you that within two years the 
indignant reaction of the people will hurl the cabinet in contempt 
from their seats, and the devils that went out from yonder capital, for 
there has been no sweeping or garnishing, will come back seven times 
stronger; for I do not believe that Jefferson Davis, driven down to 
the Gulf, will go down to the waters and perish as certain brutes men- 
tioned in the Gospel did." 

Horace Greeley was at Lincoln's heels. He wrote in August, 1862, 
his editorial, "Prayer of Twenty Millions," which drew Lincoln's 
well-known reply: "If there be those who would not save the Union 
unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with 
them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they 
could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. 
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not 
either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without 
freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing 
all the slaves, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the 
colored race, I do because I believe it would help to save the 
Union " 

"Suppose I do that," said Lincoln to Greeley, discussing general 
emancipation. "There are now 20,000 of our muskets on the shoulders 
of Kentuckians who are bravely fighting our battles. Every one of them 
will be thrown down or carried over to the rebels." 

"Let them do it," said Greeley. "The cause of the Union will be 
stronger if Kentucky should secede with the rest, than it is now." 

In September, 1862, Lincoln said to representatives of the Chicago 
Protestants : 

"I admit that slavery is at the root of the rebellion, or at least its 
sine qua non. ... I will also concede that Emancipation would help 
us in Europe. ... I grant, further, that it would help somewhat at 
the North, though not so much, I fear, as you and those you represent 
imagine. . . . And then, unquestionably, it would weaken the Rebels 
by drawing off their laborers, which is of great importance; but I 
am not so sure we could do much with the Blacks. If we were to 
arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands 
of the Rebels. . . , 


"What good would a proclamation of Emancipation from me do, 
especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a docu- 
ment that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, 
like the Pope's bull against the comet. . . ." * 

Nevertheless, just nine days later, Lincoln issued his preliminary 
Emancipation Proclamation. What caused the sudden change? Was 
it the mounting mass of Negroes rushing into Union lines ? Was it the 
fighting of Negro soldiers which showed that weapons given to them 
were never found in the hands of Confederates, or was it the curious 
international situation ? 

The failure or success of the war hung by a thread. If England and 
France should recognize the Confederacy, there was little doubt 
that the Union cause would be beaten; and they were disposed 
to recognize it. Or did Lincoln realize that since a draft law was 
needed to make unwilling Northern soldiers fight, black soldiers were 
the last refuge of the Union? The preliminary proclamation came 
in September, and in October and November mass meetings in New 
York and Brooklyn denounced the proposal as inexpedient and 
adopted resolutions against it with jeers. Ministers, like the Reverend 
Albert Barnes of Philadelphia, preached against emancipation, declar- 
ing that the control of slavery ought to be left absolutely and ex- 
clusively to the states. The New York Herald pointed out that even 
if the proclamation was effective, slave property would have to be 
restored or paid for eventually by the United States government. "The 
Herald is correct. The slaves taken from our citizens during the war 
have to be accounted for at its end, either by restoration or indem- 
nity." 2 The New Orleans Picayune pointed out in November that 
abolition would flood the North with Negroes, and that this would 
"tend to degrade white labor and to cheapen it." 

The final proclamation was issued January i, 1863, and carried a 
special admonition to the colored people: 

"And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to 
abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I 
recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faith- 
fully for reasonable wages. 

"And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suit- 
able condition, will be received into the armed service of the United 
States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to 
man vessels of all sorts in said service. 

"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, war- 
ranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the con- 
siderate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty 


The Charleston Courier jeered: 

"The Pope's bull against the comet has been issued, and I sup- 
pose Mr. Lincoln now breathes more freely. The wonderful man by 
a dash of his wonderful pen has set free (on paper) all the slaves of 
the South, and henceforth this is to be in all its length and breadth 
the land of liberty! . . . 

"Meanwhile, I would invite his own and the attention of all his 
deluded followers to a paragraph in the late number of the New 
Orleans Picayune, wherein it is stated that inquests had been held 
upon the bodies of 21 contrabands in one house alone in that city. These 
poor Negroes had been stolen or enticed away from the comfortable 
homes of their masters, and left to starve and rot by these philan- 
thropic (?) advocates of liberty for the slave." 3 

The Savannah Republican in March declared: 

"In our judgment, so far as the Border States are concerned, his 
proposition will have exactly the opposite eflect to that for which it 
was designed. Those states, who have held on to the Union with the 
belief that their Southern sisters were hasty and wrong in the belief 
that they were about to be brought under an abolition government, 
will now see that they were right and that all their worst apprehen- 
sions have been justified by the acts of that government." 

Beauregard sent an impudent telegram to Miles at Richmond: 

"Has the bill for the execution of abolition prisoners, after January 
next, been passed? Do it, and England will be stirred into action. 
It is high time to proclaim the black flag after that period; let the 
execution be with the garrote." 

The reaction to emancipation in the North was unfavorable so far 
as political results indicated, although many motives influenced the 
voters. The elections of 1862 in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois went Democratic, and in other parts of the 
West, Lincoln lost support. In the Congress of i860, there were seventy- 
eight Republicans and thirty-seven Democrats, and in 1862, the ad- 
ministration had only fifty-seven supporters, with sixty-seven in the 

Only among Negroes and in England was the reaction favorable, 
and both counted. The Proclamation made four and a half million 
laborers willing almost in mass to sacrifice their last drop of blood for 
their new-found country. It sent them into transports of joy and sacri- 
fice. It changed all their pessimism and despair into boundless faith. 
It was the Coming of the Lord. 

The Proclamation had an undoubted and immediate effect upon 
England. The upper classes were strongly in favor of the Confederacy, 
and sure that the Yankees were fighting only for a high tariff and 


hurt vanity. Free-trade England was repelled by this program, and 
attracted by the free trade which the Confederacy offered. There was 
strong demand among manufacturers to have the government inter- 
fere and recognize the Southern States as an independent nation. The 
church and universities were in favor of the Confederacy, and all the 
great periodicals. Even the philanthropists, like Lord Shaftesbury, Car- 
lyle, Buxton and Gladstone, threw their sympathies to the South. 
Carlyle sneered at people "cutting each other's throats because one- 
half of them prefer hiring their servants for life, and the other by the 
hour." 4 

As Henry Adams assures us: 

"London was altogether beside itself on one point, in especial; it 
created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abraham 
Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible more devil- 
ish, and called it Mr. Seward. In regard to these two men, English 
society seemed demented. Defense was useless; explanation was vain; 
one could only let the passion exhaust itself. One's best friends were 
as unreasonable as enemies, for the belief in poor Mr. Lincoln's bru- 
tality and Seward's ferocity became a dogma of popular faith." 5 

Confederate warships were being built and harbored in English 
ports and in September, 1862, Palmerston, believing that the Confed- 
erates were about to capture Washington, suggested intervention to 
members of his cabinet. Lord John Russell wanted to act immediately, 
but the rebels were driven back at Antietam the same month, and 
the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation appeared. Gladstone and 
Russell still tried to force intervention, but Palmerston hesitated. 

There was similar demand in France, but not as strong, because 
cotton did not play so large a part. Nevertheless, the textile workers 
in both France and England were hard-pressed by the cotton famine. 
Napoleon III was in favor of the South, but the mass of the French 
nation was not. Napoleon was assured by the Confederate govern- 
ment that a Southern alliance with French Mexico and a guaranty 
of Cuba could be had for the asking, if France would recognize the 
Confederacy. No danger from the North was anticipated, for Seward 
was certain to accept Napoleon's assurances of France's neutrality. 

Public opinion stood back of the English government and was, on 
the whole, in favor of the South; but Garrison and Douglass by their 
visits, and later Harriet Beecher Stowe, had influenced the opinion of 
the middle and laboring classes. Nevertheless, it was reported in 1862: 
"We find only here and there among the Englishmen one who does 
not fanatically side with the slave states." Various meetings in favor 
of the South were arranged by the workingmen and the General 
Council of Workingmen's Associations opposed the pro-Southern 


movement. The war had created a great scarcity of cotton, and in addi- 
tion to this, there had already been an over-production of the cotton 
industry in England in i860, so that the effect of the blockade was 
not felt until later, so far as the sale of goods was concerned. But the 
factories closed, and more than half the looms and spindles lay idle. 
Especially in Lancashire there was great distress among laborers. Fever 
and prostitution were prevalent in 1865. 

Notwithstanding this, the English workers stood up for the abolition 
of Negro slavery, and protested against the intervention of the Eng- 
lish. Up until 1863, it was argued with some show of right that the 
North was not fighting to free the slaves; but on the contrary, accord- 
ing to Lincoln's own words, "was perfectly willing to settle the war 
and leave the Negroes in slavery." But as soon as Lincoln issued the 
Emancipation Proclamation, the workingmen of England held hun- 
dreds of meetings all over the country and in all industrial sections, 
and hailed his action. 

Ernest Jones, the leader of the Chartist movement, raised his elo- 
quent voice against slavery. During the winter of 1862-1863, meeting 
after meeting in favor of emancipation was held. The reaction in Eng- 
land to the Emancipation Proclamation was too enthusiastic for the 
government to dare take any radical step. Great meetings in London 
and Manchester stirred the nation, and gave notice to Palmerston that 
he could not yet take the chance of recognizing the South. In spite of 
Russell and Gladstone, he began to withdraw, and the imminent dan- 
ger of recognition of the South by England and France passed. 

In the monster meeting of English workingmen at St. James' Hall, 
London, March 26, 1863, John Bright spoke; and John Stuart Mill 
declared that: "Higher political and social freedom has been estab- 
lished in the United States." Karl Marx testified that this meeting 
held in 1863 kept Lord Palmerston from declaring war against the 
United States. On December 31, 1863, at meetings held simultaneously 
in London and Manchester, addresses were sent to Lincoln, drafted 
by Karl Marx. The London address said: 

"Sir: We who offer this address are Englishmen and workingmen. 
We prize as our dearest inheritance, bought for us by the blood of our 
fathers, the liberty we enjoy — the liberty of free labor on a free soil. 
We have, therefore, been accustomed to regard with veneration and 
gratitude the founders of the great republic in which the liberties of 
the Anglo-Saxon race have been widened beyond all the precedents 
of the old world, and in which there was nothing to condemn or to 
lament but the slavery and degradation of men guilty only of a colored 
skin or an African parentage. We have looked with admiration and 
sympathy upon the brave, generous and untiring efforts of a large 


party in the Northern States to deliver the Union from this curse 
and shame. We rejoiced, sir, in your election to the Presidency, as a 
splendid proof that the principles of universal freedom and equality 
were rising to the ascendant. We regarded with abhorrence the con- 
spiracy and rebellion by which it was sought at once to overthrow 
the supremacy of a government based upon the most popular suffrage 
in the world, and to perpetuate the hateful inequalities of race." 6 

The Manchester address, adopted by six thousand people, said 
among other things: 

"One thing alone has, in the past, lessened our sympathy with 
your country and our confidence in it; we mean the ascendancy of 
politicians who not merely maintained Negro slavery, but desired to 
extend and root it more deeply. Since we have discerned, however, 
that the victory of the free North in the war which has so sorely 
distressed us as well as afflicted you, will shake oft" the fetters of the 
slave, you have attracted our warm and earnest sympathy. 

"We joyfully honor you, as the President, and the Congress with 
you, for the many decisive steps towards practically exemplifying your 
belief in the words of your great founders: 'All men are created free 
and equal.' . . . 

"We assume that you cannot now stop short of a complete uproot- 
ing of slavery. It would not become us to dictate any details, but 
there are broad principles of humanity which must guide you. If com- 
plete emancipation in some states be deferred, though only to a pre- 
determined day, still, in the interval, human beings should not be 
counted chattels. Woman must have rights of chastity and maternity, 
men the rights of husbands; masters the liberty of manumission. Jus- 
tice demands for the black, no less than for the white, the protection 
of the law — that his voice may be heard in your courts. Nor must 
any such abomination be tolerated as slave-breeding States and a 
slave market — if you are to earn the high reward of all your sacrifices 
in the approval of the universal brotherhood and of the Divine Father. 
It is for your free country to decide whether anything but immediate 
and total emancipation can secure the most indispensable rights of 
humanity, against the inveterate wickedness of local laws and local 

"We implore you, for your own honor and welfare, not to faint 
in your providential mission. While your enthusiasm is aflame, and 
the tide of events runs high, let the work be finished effectually. Leave 
no root of bitterness to spring up and work fresh misery to your 
children. It is a mighty task, indeed, to reorganize the industry, not 
only of four millions of the colored race, but of five millions of whites. 


Nevertheless, the vast progress you have made in the short space of 
twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom 
will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot upon 
civilization and Christianity — chattel slavery — during your Presidency, 
will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honored and revered 
by posterity." 7 

Lincoln in reply said that he knew the suffering of the working- 
men in Manchester and Europe in this crisis, and appreciated the 
action of the English workingmen as an example of "sublime Chris- 
tian heroism," which "has not been surpassed in any age or in any 
country." He declared that the Civil War was "the attempt to over- 
throw this government, which was built upon a foundation of human 
rights, and to substitute one which should rest exclusively on the basis 
of human slavery." 

In the North, the Emancipation Proclamation meant the Negro 
soldier, and the Negro soldier meant the end of the war. 

"We have come to set you free!" cried the black cavalrymen who 
rode at the head of the Union Army as it entered Richmond in 1864. 
These soldiers were in the division of Godfrey Weitzel; when Ben 
Butler first assigned Negro troops to Weitzel's command in Louisiana, 
Weitzel resigned. It was a good thing for him that he recalled this 
resignation, for his black soldiers at Port Hudson wrote his name in 

Here was indeed revolution. At first, this was to be a white man's 
war. First, because the North did not want to affront the South, and 
the war was going to be short, very short; and secondly, if Negroes 
fought in the war, how could it help being a war for their emancipa- 
tion? And for this the North would not fight. Yet scarcely a year 
after hostilities started, the Negroes were fighting, although unrecog- 
nized as soldiers; in two years they were free and enrolling in the 

Private Miles O'Reilly expressed in the newspapers a growing pub- 
lic opinion: 

"Some say it is a burnin' shame 

To make the naygurs fight, 
An' that the thrade o' bein' kilt 
Belongs but to the white; 

"But as for me 'upon me sowl' 
So liberal are we here, 
I'll let Sambo be murthered in place o' meself 
On every day in the year." 


In December, 1861, Union officers were ordered not to return fugi- 
tive slaves on pain of court-martial. In 1862 came Hunter's black 
regiment in South Carolina. 

In the spring of 1862, General Hunter had less than eleven thou- 
sand men under his command, and had to hold the whole broken 
seacoast of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. He applied often 
and in vain to the authorities at Washington for reinforcements. All 
the troops available in the North were less than sufficient for General 
McClellan's great operations against Richmond, and the reiterated 
answer of the War Department was : "You must get along as best you 
can. Not a man from the North can be spared." 

"No reinforcements to be had from the North; vast fatigue duties 
in throwing up earthworks imposed on our insufficient garrison; the 
enemy continually increasing, both in insolence and numbers; our 
only success the capture of Fort Pulaski, sealing up Savannah; and 
this victory offset, if not fully counterbalanced, by many minor gains 
of the enemy; this was about the condition of affairs as seen from the 
headquarters fronting Port Royal bay, when General Hunter one 
morning, 'with twirling glasses, puckered lips and dilated nostrils' 
[he had just received another "don't-bother-us-for-reenforcements" dis- 
patch from Washington] announced his intention of 'forming a Negro 
regiment, and compelling every able-bodied black man in the depart- 
ment to fight for the freedom which could not but be the issue of 
our war.'" 8 

Hunter caused all the necessary orders to be issued, and took upon 
himself the responsibility for the irregular issue of arms, clothing, 
equipments and rations involved in collecting and organizing the 
first experimental Negro regiments. 

Reports of the organization of the First South Carolina Infantry 
were forwarded to headquarters in Washington, and the War Depart- 
ment took no notice. Nothing was said, nor was any authority given 
to pay the men or furnish them subsistence. But at last a special dis- 
patch steamer plowed her way over the bar with word from the War 
Department, "requiring immediate answer." 

It was a demand for information in regard to the Negro regiment, 
based on a resolution introduced by Wickliffe of Kentucky. These 
resolutions had been adopted by Congress. Hunter laughed, but as 
he was without authority for any of his actions in this case, it seemed 
to his worried Adjutant-General that the documents in his hands were 
no laughing matter. But Hunter declared: 

"That old fool has just given me the very chance I was growing sick 
for! The War Department has refused to notice my black regiment; 
but now, in reply to this resolution, I can lay the matter before the 


country, and force the authorities either to adopt my Negroes, or to 
disband them." 9 

So Hunter wrote: "No regiment of 'fugitive slaves' has been, or is 
being, organized in this department. There is, however, a fine regi- 
ment of loyal persons whose late masters are fugitive rebels." He 
said that he did this under instructions given by the late Secretary 
of War, and his general authority to employ "all loyal persons offering 
their service in defense of the Union." He added: 

"Neither have I had any specific authority for supplying these per- 
sons with shovels, spades, and pickaxes, when employing them as 
laborers; nor with boats and oars, when using them as lighter-men; 
but these are not points included in Mr. Wickliffe's resolutions. To 
me it seemed that liberty to employ men in any particular capacity 
implied and carried with it liberty, also, to supply them with the 
necessary tools; and, acting upon this faith, I have clothed, equipped 
and armed the only loyal regiment yet raised in South Carolina, 
Georgia or Florida. . . . 

"The experiment of arming the blacks, so far as I have made it, 
has been a complete and even marvelous success. They are sober, 
docile, attentive, and enthusiastic; displaying great natural capacities 
in acquiring the duties of the soldier. They are now eager beyond all 
things to take the field and be led into action; and it is the unanimous 
opinion of the officers who have had charge of them that, in the 
peculiarities of this climate and country, they will prove invaluable 
auxiliaries, fully equal to the similar regiments so long and successfully 
used by the British authorities in the West India Islands. 

"In conclusion, I would say, it is my hope — there appearing no pos- 
sibility of other reinforcements, owing to the exigencies of the cam- 
paign in the Peninsula — to have organized by the end of next fall, 
and be able to present to the government, from forty-eight to fifty 
thousand of these hardy and devoted soldiers." 

When the reply was read in the House of Representatives: "Its 
effects were magical. The clerk could scarcely read it with decorum; 
nor could half his words be heard amidst the universal peals of 
laughter in which both Democrats and Republicans appeared to vie 
as to which should be the more noisy. ... It was the great joke of 
the day, and coming at a moment of universal gloom in the public 
mind, was seized upon by the whole loyal press of the country as a 
kind of politico-military champagne cocktail." 

When the Confederate Government heard of this, it issued an order 
reciting that "as the government of the United States had refused to 
answer whether it authorized the raising of a black regiment by Gen- 
eral Hunter or not," said general, his staff, and all officers under his 


command who had directly or indirectly participated in the unclean 
thing, should hereafter be outlaws not covered by the laws of war; but 
to be executed as felons for the crime of "inciting Negro insurrection 
wherever caught." 

In Louisiana, the colored Creoles in many cases hesitated. Some 
of them had been owners of slaves, and some actually fought in the 
Confederate Army, but were not registered as Negroes. On Novem- 
ber 23, 1 861, the Confederate grand parade took place in New Or- 
leans, and one feature of the review was a regiment of free men of 
color, 1,400 in number. The Picayune speaks of a later review on 
February 9, 1862: 

"We must pay deserved compliment to the companies of free men 
of color, all well-dressed, well-drilled, and comfortably uniformed. 
Most of these companies have provided themselves with arms unaided 
bv the administration." 

When Butler entered the city in 1862, the Confederates fled tu- 
multuously or laid aside their uniforms and stayed. The free Negro 
regiment did neither, but offered its services to the Federal army. 
Butler at first was in a quandary. 

"The instructions given by General McClellan to General Butler 
were silent on this most perplexing problem. On leaving Washington, 
Butler was verbally informed by the President, that the government 
was not yet prepared to announce a Negro policy. They were anxiously 
considering the subject, and hoped, ere long, to arrive at conclu- 

sions." 10 

Butler found the Negroes of great help to him, but he could not, 
as in Virginia, call them "contraband," because he had no work for 
them. He wanted to free them, but on May 9, the news came that 
Hunter's proclamation in South Carolina had been revoked. Butler, 
however, abolished the whipping houses, and encouraged the Negroes 
who called on him. "One consequence was that the general had a 
spy in every house, behind each rebel's chair, as he sat at table." 

General Butler asked for reinforcements all summer on account of 
the growing strength of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the condition 
of Mobile and camps near New Orleans. The answer from Washing- 
ton was: "We cannot spare you one man; we will send you men 
when we have them to send. You must hold New Orleans by all 
means and at all hazards." 

Earlier, General Phelps, who commanded the Federal forces about 
seven miles from New Orleans, had received a number of refugees, 
some of them in chains and some of them bleeding from wounds. 
Butler ordered him May 23, 1862, to exclude these from his lines. 
He replied at length: 


"Added to the four millions of the colored race whose disaffection 
is increasing even more rapidly than their number, there are at least 
four millions more of the white race whose growing miseries will 
naturally seek companionship with those of the blacks." 

He demanded that the President should abolish slavery, and that 
the Negroes be armed. Butler forwarded Phelps' reply to Washington. 
Phelps again demanded the right to arm Negro troops. He was 
ordered July 1, 1862, to use the Negroes to cut wood. He immediately 
handed in his resignation, saying: 

"I am willing to prepare African regiments for the defense of the 
government against its assailants. I am not willing to become the 

mere slave-driver which you propose, having no qualifications in that 

" 11 

The use of Negro troops was precipitated by the attack which Breck- 
inridge made August 5, 1862, on Baton Rouge. Butler had to have 
troops to defend New Orleans, and had applied to Washington, but 
none could be sent. Therefore, by proclamation, August 22, 1862, 
Butler "called on Africa," accepted the free Negro regiment which 
had offered its services, and proceeded to organize other Negro troops. 
He recited at length the previous action of the Confederate Governor 
in organizing the Negro regiment, April 23, 1861, and quoted directly 
from the Confederate Governor's proclamation: 

"Now, therefore, the Commanding General, believing that a large 
portion of this militia force of the State of Louisiana are willing to 
take service in the volunteer forces of the United States, and be en- 
rolled and organized to 'defend their homes' from 'ruthless invaders'; 
to protect their wives and children and kindred from wrong and 
outrage; to shield their property from being seized by bad men; and 
to defend the flag of their native country, as their fathers did under 
Jackson at Chalmette against Packenham and his myrmidons, carry- 
ing the black flag of 'beauty and booty': 

"Appreciating their motives, relying upon their 'well-known loyalty 
and patriotism,' and with 'praise and respect' for these brave men — 
it is ordered that all the members of the 'Native Guards' aforesaid, 
and all other free colored citizens recognized by the first and late 
governor and authorities of the State of Louisiana, as a portion of the 
militia of the State, who shall enlist in the volunteer service of the 
United States, shall be duly organized by the appointment of proper 
officers, and accepted, paid, equipped, armed and rationed as are other 
volunteer troops of the United States, subject to the approval of the 
President of the United States." 12 

Thousands of volunteers under Butler's appeal appeared. In four- 
teen days, a regiment was organized with colored line officers and 


white field officers. More than half of the privates were not really 
free Negroes but fugitive slaves. A second regiment with colored 
line officers was enlisted, and a third, with colored mess officers. 

In the Kansas Home Guard were two regiments of Indians, and 
among them over four hundred Negroes; and 2,500 Negroes served 
in the contingent that came from the Indian nations. Many of them 
enlisted early in 1862. 

In the meantime, the war was evidently more than a dress parade 
or a quick attack upon Richmond. One hundred thousand "three 
months" soldiers were but a "drop in the bucket." More and more 
troops must be had. The time of enlistment for many of the white 
troops was already expiring, and at least Negro troops could be used 
on fatigue duty in the large stretches of territory held by the Federal 
armies down the Atlantic Coast, and in the Mississippi Valley, and in 
the Border States. 

Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Senate 
Committee on Military Affairs, introduced a bill in July, 1862, which 
empowered the President to accept Negroes for constructing entrench- 
ments, or any other war service for which they might be found com- 
petent. If owned by rebels, such Negroes were to be freed, but noth- 
ing was said of their families. Thaddeus Stevens championed the bill 
in the House, and it was signed by Lincoln, July 17, 1862. 

The debate was bitter. Senator Sherman of Ohio said: 

"The question rises, whether the people of the United States, strug- 
gling for national existence, should not employ these blacks for the 
maintenance of the Government. The policy heretofore pursued by the 
officers of the United States has been to repel this class of people 
from our lines, to refuse their services. They would have made the 
best spies; and yet they have been driven from our lines." 

Fessenden of Maine added: "I tell the generals of our army, they 
must reverse their practices and their course of proceeding on this 
subject. ... I advise it here from my place — treat your enemies as 
enemies, as the worst of enemies, and avail yourselves like men, of 
every power which God has placed in your hands, to accomplish 
your purpose within the rules of civilized warfare." Race, of Min- 
nesota, declared that "not many days can pass before the people 
of the United States North must decide upon one or two questions: 
we have either to acknowledge the Southern Confederacy as a free 
and independent nation, and that speedily; or we have as speedily 
to resolve to use all the means given us by the Almighty to prosecute 
this war to a successful termination. The necessity for action has 
arisen. To hesitate is worse than criminal." The Border States de- 
murred, and Davis of Kentucky was especially bitter with threats. 


The bill finally was amended so as to pay the black soldier's bounty 
to his owner, if he happened to be a slave! 

All that was simply permissive legislation, and for a time the War 
Department did nothing. Some of the commanders in the field, how- 
ever, began to move. On the other hand, Senator Davis of Kentucky 
tried in January, 1863, to stop the use of any national appropriations 
to pay Negro soldiers. This attempt was defeated, and on January 6, 
1863, five days after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Secretary of 
War authorized the Governor of Massachusetts to raise two Negro 
regiments for three years' service. These were the celebrated 54th 
and 55th Negro regiments — the first regularly authorized Negro regi- 
ments of the war. 

The recruiting of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of colored men 
was completed by the 13th of May. It had been planned to have the 
regiment pass through New York, but the Chief of Police warned 
that it would be subject to insult, so that it went by sea to South 

In October, the Adjutant-General of the United States issued a 
general order permitting the military employment of Negroes. The 
Union League Club of New York appointed a committee to raise 
Negro troops, and after some difficulty with Governor Seymour, they 
received from Washington authority to raise a regiment. One thou- 
sand Negroes responded within two weeks, and by January 27, 1864, 
a second regiment was raised. No bounty was offered them, and no 
protection promised their families. One of the regiments marched 
through the city. 

"The scene of yesterday," says a New York paper, "was one which 
marks an era of progress in the political and social history of New 
York. A thousand men with black skins and clad and equipped with 
the uniforms and arms of the United States Government, marched 
from their camp through che most aristocratic and busy streets, 
received a grand ovation at the hands of the wealthiest and most re- 
spectable ladies and gentlemen of New York, and then moved down 
Broadway to the steamer which bears them to their destination — all 
amid the enthusiastic cheers, the encouraging plaudits, the waving 
handkerchiefs, the showering bouquets and other approving manifesta- 
; tions of a hundred thousand of the most loyal of our people." 13 

Pennsylvania was especially prominent in recruiting Negro troops. 
A committee was appointed, which raised $33,388, with which they 
proposed to raise three regiments. The committee founded Camp Wil- 
liam Penn at Shelton Hill, and the first squad went into camp June 
26, 1863. The first regiment, known as the Third United States, was 
full July 24, 1863, The third regiment, known as the Eighth United 


States, was full December 4, 1863. Two more regiments were full 
January 6 and February 3. The regiments went South, August 13, 
October 14, 1863, and January 16, 1864. 

In the Department of the Cumberland, the Secretary of War author- 
ized George L. Stearns of Massachusetts to recruit Negroes. Stearns 
was a friend of John Brown, and a prominent Abolitionist. He took up 
headquarters at Nashville, and raised a number of regiments. In the 
Department of the Gulf, General Banks, May 1, 1863, proposed an 
army corps to be known as the Corps d'Afrique. It was to consist of 
eighteen regiments, infantry, artillery and calvary, and to be organized 
in three divisions of three brigades each, with engineers and hospitals, 
etc. He said in his order: 

"The Government makes use of mules, horses, uneducated and edu- 
cated white men, in the defense of its institutions. Why should not 
the Negro contribute whatever is in his power for the cause in which 
he is as deeply interested as other men? We may properly demand 
from him whatever service he can render." 

In March, 1863, the Secretary of War sent the Adjutant-General, 
Lorenzo Thomas, into the South on a tour of inspection. Stanton's 
orders said: 

"The President desires that you should confer freely with Major- 
General Grant, and the officers with whom you may have communi- 
cation, and explain to them the importance attached by the Govern- 
ment to the use of the colored population emancipated by the Presi- 
dent's Proclamation, and particularly for the organization of their 
labor and military strength. . . . 

"You are authorized in this connection, to issue in the name of this 
department, letters of appointment for field and company officers, 
and to organize such troops for military service to the utmost extent 
to which they can be obtained in accordance with the rules and regu- 
lations of the service." 14 

Thomas spoke to the army officers in Louisiana, and expressed 
himself clearly. 

"You know full well — for you have been over this country — that 
the Rebels have sent into the fields all their available fighting men — 
every man capable of bearing arms; and you know they have kept 
at home all their slaves for the raising of subsistence for their armies 
in the field. In this way they can bring to bear against us all the 
strength of their so-called Confederate States; while we at the North 
can only send a portion of our fighting force, being compelled to leave 
behind another portion to cultivate our fields and supply the wants 
of an immense army, the administration has determined to take 




"All of you will some day be on picket duty; and I charge you all, 
if any of this unfortunate race come within your lines, that you do 
not turn them away, but receive them kindly and cordially. They 
are to be encouraged to come to us; they are to be received with 
open arms; they are to be fed and clothed; they are to be armed." 15 

It would not have been American, however, not to have maintained 
some color discrimination, however petty. First, there was the matter 
of pay. The pay of soldiers at the beginning of the war was $13 a 
month. Negro soldiers enlisted under the same law. In the instructions 
to General Saxton, August 25, 1862, it was stated that the pay should 
be the same as that of the other troops. Soon, however, this was 
changed, and Negro soldiers were allowed but $10 a month, and $3 
of this was deducted for clothing. Many of the regiments refused 
to receive the reduced pay. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry refused 
pay for a whole year until the regiment was treated as other regiments. 
The State of Massachusetts made up the difference to disabled and 
discharged soldiers until June 15, 1864, when the law was changed. In 
the Department of the Gulf, white troops who did provost duties 
about the city were paid $16 a month, while the Negro regiments were 
paid $7. At one time, this came near causing a mutiny. 

But the Negroes did not waver. John M. Langston in a speech in 
Ohio in August, 1862, said: 

"Pay or no pay, let us volunteer. The good results of such a course 
are manifold. But this one alone is all that needs to be mentioned in 
this connection. I refer to thorough organization. This is the great 
need of the colored Americans/' 

With regard to officers, the people of Pennsylvania secured from the 
Secretary of War permission to establish a free military school for 
the education of candidates for commissioned officers among the 
colored troops. The school was established, and within less than six 
months, examined over 1,000 applicants and passed 560. In the De- 
partment of the Gulf, Butler was in favor of colored officers, because 
in the First Colored Regiment there were a number of well-trained 
and intelligent Negro officers. But Banks was very much against 
colored officers, and would not use them. There was at first a very 
great distaste on the part of white men for serving in colored regi- 
ments. Hunter found this difficulty with his first regiment, but he 
quickly cured it by offering commissions to competent non-commis- 


sioned officers. Later, when the black troops made their reputation 
in battle, the chance to command them was eagerly sought. 

Congress finally freed the wives and children of enlisted soldiers; a 
measure which Davis of Kentucky quickly opposed on the ground 
that "The government had no power to take private property except 
for public use, and without just compensation to the owner." 

Abraham Lincoln, under a fire of criticism, warmly defended the 
enlistment of Negro troops. "The slightest knowledge of arithmetic 
will prove to any man that the rebel armies cannot be destroyed with 
Democratic strategy. It would sacrifice all the white men of the North 
to do it. There are now in the service of the United States near two 
hundred thousand able-bodied colored men, most of them under 
arms, defending and acquiring Union territory. . . . 

"abandon all the posts now garrisoned by black men; take two 
hundred thousand men from our side and put them in the battle- 
field or cornfield against us, and we would be compelled to abandon 
the war in three weeks. . . . 

"My enemies pretend I am now carrying on this war for the sole 
purpose of abolition. So long as I am President, it shall be carried 
on for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power 
can subdue this rebellion without the use of the emancipation policy, 
and every other policy calculated to weaken the moral and physical 
forces of the rebellion. Freedom has given us two hundred thousand 
men raised on Southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it 
has subtracted from the enemy." 16 

The question as to whether Negroes should enlist in the Federal 
army was not nearly as clear in 1863 as it seems today. The South 
still refused to believe that the Civil War would end in the emanci- 
pation of slaves. There not only were strong declarations to the con- 
trary in the North, but there was still the determined opposition of 
the Border States. The Confederates industriously spread propaganda 
among slaves, alleging that Northerners mistreated the Negroes, and 
were selling them to the West Indies into harsher slavery. Even in 
the North, among the more intelligent free Negroes, there was some 

Frederick Douglass spoke for the free and educated black man, 
clear-headed and undeceived: "Now, what is the attitude of the 
Washington government towards the colored race? What reasons 
have we to desire its triumph in the present contest? Mind, I do not 
ask what was its attitude towards us before this bloody rebellion broke 
out. I do not ask what was its disposition, when it was controlled by 
the very men who are now fighting to destroy it, when they could 
no longer control it. I do not even ask what it was two years ago, 


when McClellan shamelessly gave out that in a war between loyal 
slaves and disloyal masters, he would take the side of the masters 
against the slaves — when he openly proclaimed his purpose to put 
down slave insurrections with an iron hand — when glorious Ben 
Butler, now stunned into a conversion to anti-slavery principles (which 
I have every reason to believe sincere), proffered his services to the 
Governor of Maryland, to suppress a slave insurrection, while treason 
ran riot in that State, and the warm, red blood of Massachusetts 
soldiers still stained the pavements of Baltimore. 

"I do not ask what was the attitude of this government when many 
of the officers and men who had undertaken to defend it openly 
threatened to throw down their arms and leave the service if men 
of color should step forward to defend it, and be invested with the 
dignity of soldiers. Moreover, I do not ask what was the position of 
this government when our loyal camps were made slave-hunting 
grounds, and United States officers performed the disgusting duty of 
slave dogs to hunt down slaves for rebel masters. These were all the 
dark and terrible days for the republic. I do not ask you about the 
dead past. I bring you to the living present. 

"Events more mighty than men, eternal Providence, all-wise and 
all-controlling, have placed us in new relations to the government and 
the government to us. What that government is to us today, and what 
it will be tomorrow, is made evident by a very few facts. Look at 
them, colored men. Slavery in the District of Columbia is abolished 
forever; slavery in all the territories of the United States is abolished 
forever; the foreign slave trade, with its ten thousand revolting abom- 
inations, is rendered impossible; slavery in ten States of the Union is 
abolished forever; slavery in the five remaining States is as certain 
to follow the same fate as the night is to follow the day. The inde- 
pendence of Haiti is recognized; her Minister sits beside our Prime 
Minister, Mr. Seward, and dines at his table in Washington, while 
colored men are excluded from the cars in Philadelphia; showing 
that a black man's complexion in Washington, in the presence of the 
Federal Government, is less offensive than in the city of brotherly 
love. Citizenship is no longer denied us under this government. 

"Under the interpretation of our rights by Attorney General Bates, 
J we are American citizens. We can import goods, own and sail ships 
and travel in foreign countries, with American passports in our 
pockets; and now, so far from there being any opposition, so far 
from excluding us from the army as soldiers, the President at Wash- 
ington, the Cabinet and the Congress, the generals commanding and 
the whole army of the nation unite in giving us one thunderous wel- 
come to share with them in the honor and glory of suppressing trea- 


son and upholding the star-spangled banner. The revolution is tre- 
mendous, and it becomes us as wise men to recognize the change, 
and to shape our action accordingly. 

"I hold that the Federal Government was never, in its essence, any- 
thing but an antislavery government. Abolish slavery tomorrow, and 
not a sentence or syllable of the Constitution need be altered. It was 
purposely so framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the claim of 
property in man. If in its origin slavery had any relation to the gov- 
ernment, it was only as the scaffolding to the magnificent structure, 
to be removed as soon as the building was completed. There is in the 
Constitution no East, no West, no North, no South, no black, no 
white, no slave, no slaveholder, but all are citizens who are of Amer- 
ican birth. 

"Such is the government, fellow-citizens, you are now called upon 
to uphold with your arms. Such is the government, that you are called 
upon to cooperate with in burying rebellion and slavery in a common 
grave. Never since the world began was a better chance offered to a 
long enslaved and oppressed people. The opportunity is given us to 
be men. With one courageous resolution we may blot out the hand- 
writing of ages against us. Once let the black man get upon his per- 
son the brass letters U. S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a 
musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no 
power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has 
earned the right of citizenship in the United States." 17 

In the meantime, two fateful occurrences took place. First, the white 
workers of New York declared in effect that the Negroes were the 
cause of the war, and that they were tired of the discrimination that 
made workers fighters for the rich. They, therefore, killed all the 
Negroes that they could lay their hands on. On the other hand, in 
Louisiana and South Carolina, Negro soldiers were successfully used 
in pitched battle. 

The opposition to the war in the North took various forms. There 
was the open sedition, led by Vallandingham and ending in the mass 
opposition of the working classes. This Copperhead movement was 
pro-slavery and pro-Southern, and was met in part by closer under- 
standing and alliance between the Abolitionists and the Republican 
administration. But the working class movement was deeper and 
more difficult. It was the protest of the poor against being compelled 
to fight the battles of the rich in which they could conceive no inter- 
est of theirs. If the workers had been inspired by the sentiment against 
slavery which animated the English workers, results might have been 
different. But the Copperheads of the North, and the commercial 
interests of New York, in particular, were enabled to turn the just 


indignation of the workers against the Negro laborers, rather than 
against the capitalists; and against any war, even for emancipation. 

When the draft law was passed in 1863, it meant that the war could 
no longer be carried on with volunteers; that soldiers were going 
to be compelled to fight, and these soldiers were going to be poor 
men who could not buy exemption. The result throughout the coun- 
try was widespread disaffection that went often as far as rioting. 
More than 2,500 deserters from the Union army were returned to the 
ranks from Indianapolis alone during a single month in 1862; the total 
desertions in the North must have been several hundred thousands. 

It was easy to transfer class hatred so that it fell upon the black 
worker. The end of war seemed far off, and the attempt to enforce 
the draft led particularly to disturbances in New York City, where a 
powerful part of the city press was not only against the draft, but 
against the war, and in favor of the South and Negro slavery. 

The establishment of the draft undertaken July 13 in New York 
City met everywhere with resistance. Workingmen engaged in tear- 
ing down buildings were requested to give their names for the draft; 
they refused, and drove away the officers. The movement spread over 
the whole city. Mobs visited workshops and compelled the men to 
stop work. Firemen were prevented from putting out fires, telegraph 
wires were cut, and then at last the whole force of the riot turned 
against the Negroes. They were the cause of the war, and hence the 
cause of the draft. They were bidding for the same jobs as white men. 
They were underbidding white workers in order to keep themselves 
from starving. They were disliked especially by the Irish because of 
direct economic competition and difference in religion. 

The Democratic press had advised the people that they were to be 
called upon to fight the battles of "niggers and Abolitionists"; Gov- 
ernor Seymour politely "requested" the rioters to await the return 
of his Adjutant-General, whom he had dispatched to Washington 
to ask the President to suspend the draft. 

The report of the Merchants' Committee on the Draft Riot says 
of the Negroes : "Driven by the fear of death at the hands of the mob, 
who the week previous had, as you remember, brutally murdered 
by hanging on trees and lamp posts, several of their number, and 
cruelly beaten and robbed many others, burning and sacking their 
houses, and driving nearly all from the streets, alleys and docks upon 
which they had previously obtained an honest though humble living 
— these people had been forced to take refuge on Blackwell's Island, 
at police stations, on the outskirts of the city, in the swamps and 
woods back of Bergen, New Jersey, at Weeksville, and in the barns 
and out-houses of the farmers of Long Island and Morrisania. At 


these places were scattered some 5,000 homeless men, women and 
children." 18 

The whole demonstration became anti-Union and pro-slavery. At- 
tacks were made on the residence of Horace Greeley, and cheers were 
heard for Jefferson Davis. The police fought it at first only half- 
heartedly and with sympathy, and finally, with brutality. Soldiers were 
summoned from Fort Hamilton, West Point and elsewhere. 

The property loss was put at $1,200,000, and it was estimated that 
between four hundred and a thousand people were killed. When a 
thousand troops under General Wool took charge of the city, thirteen 
rioters were killed, eighteen wounded, and twenty-four made prison- 
ers. Four days the riot lasted, and the city appropriated $2,500,000 to 
indemnify the victims. 

In many other places, riots took place, although they did not become 
so specifically race riots. They did, however, show the North that 
unless they could replace unwilling white soldiers with black soldiers, 
who had a vital stake in the outcome of the war, the war could not 
be won. 

It had been a commonplace thing in the North to declare that 
Negroes would not fight. Even the black man's friends were skeptical 
about the possibility of using him as a soldier, and far from its being 
to the credit of black men, or any men, that they did not want to kill, 
the ability and willingness to take human life has always been, 
even in the minds of liberal men, a proof of manhood. It took in 
many respects a finer type of courage for the Negro to work quietly 
and faithfully as a slave while the world was fighting over his destiny, 
than it did to seize a bayonet and rush mad with fury or inflamed 
with drink, and plunge it into the bowels of a stranger. Yet this was 
the proof of manhood required of the Negro. He might plead his 
cause with the tongue of Frederick Douglass, and the nation listened 
almost unmoved. He might labor for the nation's wealth, and the 
nation took the results without thanks, and handed him as near 
nothing in return as would keep him alive. He was called a coward 
and a fool when he protected the women and children of his master. 
But when he rose and fought and killed, the whole nation with one 
voice proclaimed him a man and brother. Nothing else made emanci- 
pation possible in the United States. Nothing else made Negro citizen- 
ship conceivable, but the record of the Negro soldier as a fighter. 

The military aid of the Negroes began as laborers and as spies. A 
soldier said: "This war has been full of records of Negro agency in 
our behalf. Negro guides have piloted our forces; Negro sympathy 
cared for our prisoners escaping from the enemy; Negro hands have 


made for us naval captures; Negro spies brought us valuable infor- 
mation. The Negroes of the South have been in sympathy with us 
from the beginning, and have always hailed the approach of our flag 
with the wildest demonstrations of joy." 19 

All through the war and after, Negroes were indispensable as in- 
formers, as is well known. The Southern papers had repeated notices 
of the work of Negro spies. In Richmond, a white woman with dis- 
patches for the Confederate army was arrested in 1863 on information 
given by a Negro. At the Battle of Manassas, the house of a free Negro 
was used as a refuge for the dead and wounded Union men. Negro 
pilots repeatedly guided Federal boats in Southern waters, and there 
were several celebrated cases of whole boats being seized by Negro 
pilots. A typical instance of this type was the action of William F. 
Tillman, a colored steward on board the brig S. J. Waring, which car- 
ried a cargo valued at $100,000. He had succeeded, by leading a revolt, 
in freeing the vessel from the Confederates who had seized it, and 
with the aid of a German and a Canadian had brought the vessel into 
port at New York. This action brought up the question of whether a 
Negro could be master of a vessel. In the Official Opinions of the 
Attorney-General for 1862, it was declared that a free colored man if 
born in the United States was a citizen of the United States and that 
he was competent to be master of a vessel engaged in the coasting 

The case of Smalls and the Planter at Charleston, South Carolina, 
became almost classic. "While at the wheel of the Planter as Pilot in 
the rebel service, it occurred to me that I could not only secure my 
own freedom, but that of numbers of my comrades in bonds, and 
moreover, I thought the Planter might be of some use to Uncle 

"I reported my plans for rescuing the Planter from the rebel cap- 
tain to the crew (all colored), and secured their secrecy and coopera- 

"On May 13, 1862, we took on board several large guns at the At- 
lantic Dock. At evening of that day, the Captain went home, leaving 
the boat in my care, with instruction to send for him in case he should 
be wanted. ... At half-past three o'clock on the morning of the 14th 
of May, I left the Atlantic Dock with the Planter, went to the Et- 
taoue; took on board my family; and several other families, then pro- 
ceeded down Charleston River slowly. When opposite . . . Fort Sum- 
ter at 4 a.m., I gave the signal, which was answered from the Fort, 
thereby giving permission to pass. I then made speed for the Blockad- 
ing Fleet. When entirely out of range of Sumter's guns, I hoisted a 
| white flag, and at 5 a.m., reached a U. S. blockading vessel, com- 


manded by Capt. Nicholas, to whom I turned over the Planter." 20 

After Lincoln was assassinated, General Hancock appealed to Ne- 
groes for help in capturing his murderers: 

"Your President has been murdered! He has fallen by the assassin 
and without a moment's warning, simply and solely because he was 
your friend and the friend of our country. Had he been unfaithful 
to you and to the great cause of human freedom he might have lived. 
The pistol from which he met his death, though held by Booth, was 
held by the hands of treason and slavery. Think of this and remember 
how long and how anxiously this good man labored to break your 
chains and make you happy. I now appeal to you, by every considera- 
tion which can move loyal and grateful hearts, to aid in discovering 
and arresting his murderer." 21 

This was issued on the 24th of April. On the next day, the cavairy 
and police force, having crossed the Potomac, received information 
from a colored woman that the fugitives had been seen there. They 
were followed toward Bowling Green, and then toward Port Royal. 
There an old colored man reported that four individuals, in company 
with a rebel Captain, had crossed the river to Bowling Green. This 
information brought the police to Garrett's house, where Booth was 

Negro military labor had been indispensable to the Union armies. 
"Negroes built most of the fortifications and earth-works for Gen- 
eral Grant in front of Vicksburg. The works in and about Nashville 
were cast up by the strong arm and willing hand of the loyal Blacks. 
Dutch Gap was dug by Negroes, and miles of earth-works, fortifica- 
tions, and corduroy-roads were made by Negroes. They did fatigue 
duty in every department of the Union army. Wherever a Negro ap- 
peared with a shovel in his hand, a white soldier took his gun and 
returned to the ranks. There were 200,000 Negroes in the camps and 
employ of the Union armies, as servants, teamsters, cooks, and labor- 
ers." 22 

The South was for a long time convinced that the Negro could not 
and would not fight. "The idea of their doing any serious fighting 
against white men is simply ridiculous," said an editorial in the Sa- 
vannah Republican, March 25, 1863. 

Of the actual fighting of Negroes, a Union general, Morgan, after- 
ward interested in Negro education, says: 

"History has not yet done justice to the share borne by colored sol- 
diers in the war for the Union. Their conduct during that eventful 
period, has been a silent, but most potent factor in influencing public 
sentiment, shaping legislation, and fixing the status of colored people 
in America. If the records of their achievements could be put into 


shape that they could be accessible to the thousands of colored youth 
in the South, they would kindle in their young minds an enthusiastic 
devotion to manhood and liberty." 23 

Black men were repeatedly and deliberately used as shock troops, 
when there was little or no hope of success. In February, 1863, Colonel 
Thomas Wentworth Higginson led black troops into Florida, and 
declared: "It would have been madness to attempt with the bravest 
white troops what successfully accomplished with black ones." 24 

In April, there were three white companies from Maine and seven 
Negro companies on Ship Island, the key to New Orleans. The black 
troops with black officers were attacked by Confederates who out- 
numbered them five to one. The Negroes retreated so as to give the 
Federal gunboat ]ac\son a chance to shell their pursuers. But the 
white crew disliked the Negro soldiers, and opened fire directly upon 
the black troops while they were fighting the Confederates. Major 
Dumas, the Negro officer in command, rescued the black men; re- 
pulsed the Confederates, and brought the men out safely. The com- 
mander called attention to these colored officers: "they were constantly 
in the thickest of the fight, and by their unflinching bravery, and 
admirable handling of their commands, contributed to the success of 
the attack, and reflected great honor upon the flag." 25 

The first battle with numbers of Negro troops followed soon after. 
Banks laid siege to Port Hudson with all his forces, including two 
black regiments. On May 23, 1863, the assault was ordered, but the 
various cooperating organizations did not advance simultaneously. 
The Negro regiments, on the North, made three desperate charges, 
losing heavily, but maintained the advance over a field covered with 
recently felled trees. Confederate batteries opened fire upon them. 
Michigan, New York and Massachusetts white troops were hurled 
back, but the works had to be taken. Two Negro regiments were 
ordered to go forward, through a direct and cross fire. 

"The deeds of heroism performed by these colored men were such 
as the proudest white men might emulate. Their colors are torn to 
pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains. The 
color-sergeant of the 1st Louisiana, on being mortally wounded, 
hugged the colors to his breast, when a struggle ensued between the 
two color-corporals on each side of him, as to who should have the 
honor of bearing the sacred standard, and during this generous con- 
tention, one was seriously wounded. One black lieutenant actually 
mounted the enemy's works three or four times, and in one charge 
the assaulting party came within fifty paces of them. Indeed, if only 
ordinarily supported by artillery and reserve, no one can convince us 


that they would not have opened a passage through the enemy's 

"Captain Callioux of the ist Louisiana, a man so black that he actu- 
ally prided himself upon his blackness, died the death of a hero, lead- 
ing on his men in the thickest of the fight." 26 

"Colonel Bassett being driven back, Colonel Finnegas took his 
place, and his men being similarly cut to pieces, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Bassett reformed and recommenced; and thus these brave people went 
on, from morning until 3 130 p.m., under the most hideous carnage that 
men ever had to withstand, and that very few white ones would have 
had nerve to encounter, even if ordered to. During this time, they 
rallied, and were ordered to ma\e six distinct charges, losing thirty- 
seven killed, and one hundred and fifty-five wounded, and one hun- 
dred and sixteen missing, — the majority, if not all, of these being in 
all probability, now lying dead on the gory field, and without the 
rites of sepulture; for when, by flag of truce, our forces in other direc- 
tion were permitted to reclaim their dead, the benefit, through some 
neglect, was not extended to these black regiments!" 27 

In June, came the battle of Milliken's Bend. Grant, in order to cap- 
ture Vicksburg, had drawn nearly all his troops from Milliken's Bend, 
except three Negro regiments, and a small force of white cavalry. This 
force was surprised by the Confederates, who drove the white cavalry 
to the very breastworks of the fort. Here the Confederates rested, ex- 
pecting to take the fortifications in the morning. At three o'clock, they 
rushed over with drawn bayonets, but the Negroes drove them out 
of the forts and held them until the gunboats came up. One officer 
describes the fight: 

"Before the colonel was ready, the men were in line, ready for ac- 
tion. As before stated, the rebels drove our force toward the gunboats, 
taking colored men prisoners and murdering them. This so enraged 
them that they rallied, and charged the enemy more heroically and 
desperately than has been recorded during the war. It was a genuine 
bayonet charge, a hand-to-hand fight, that has never occurred to any 
extent during this prolonged conflict. Upon both sides men were killed 
with the butts of muskets. White and black men were lying side by 
side, pierced by bayonets, and in some instances transfixed to the earth. 
In one instance, two men, one white and the other black, were found 
dead, side by side, each having the other's bayonet through his body. 
If facts prove to be what they are now represented, this engagement 
of Sunday morning will be recorded as the most desperate of this 
war. Broken limbs, broken heads, the mangling of bodies, all prove 
that it was a contest between enraged men: on the one side from 
hatred to a race; and on the other, desire for self-preservation, revenge 


for past grievances and the inhuman murder o£ their comrades." 28 

The month of July, 1863, was memorable. General Meade had 
driven Lee from Gettysburg, Grant had captured Vicksburg, Banks 
had captured Port Hudson, and Gilmore had begun his operations on 
Morris Island. On the 13th of July, the draft riot broke out in New 
York City, and before it was over, a Negro regiment in South Caro- 
lina, the 54th Massachusetts, was preparing to lead the assault on Fort 
Wagner. It was a desperate, impossible venture, which failed, but can 
never be forgotten. 

The black Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts regiment was to lead the 
assault. "Wagner loomed, black, grim and silent. There was no glim- 
mer of light. Nevertheless, in the fort, down below the level of the 
tide, and under roofs made by huge trunks of trees, lay two thousand 
Confederate soldiers hidden. Our troops advanced toward the fort, 
while our mortars in the rear tossed bombs over their heads. Behind 
the 54th came five regiments from Connecticut, New York, New 
Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Maine. The mass went quickly and 
silently in the night. Then, suddenly, the walls of the fort burst with 
a blinding sheet of vivid light. Shot, shells of iron and bullets crushed 
through the dense masses of the attacking force. I shall never forget 
the terrible sound of that awful blast of death which swept down, 
battered or dead, a thousand of our men. Not a shot had missed its 
aim. Every bolt of iron and lead tasted of human blood. 

"The column wavered and recovered itself. They reached the ditch 
before the fort. They climbed on the ramparts and swarmed over the 
walls. It looked as though the fort was captured. Then there came 
another blinding blaze from concealed guns in the rear of the fort, and 
the men went down by scores. The rebels rallied, and were reenforced 
by thousands of others, who had landed on the beach in the darkness 
unseen by the fleet. They hurled themselves upon the attacking force. 
The struggle was terrific. The supporting units hurried up to aid their 
comrades, but as they raised the ramparts, they fired a volley which 
struck down many of their own men. Our men rallied again, but were 
forced back to the edge of the ditch. Colonel Shaw, with scores of his 
black fighters, went down struggling desperately. Resistance was vain. 
The assailants were forced back to the beach, and the rebels drilled 
their recovered cannons anew on the remaining survivors." 

When a request was made for Colonel Shaw's body, a Confederate 
Major said: "We have buried him with his niggers." 29 

In December, 1863, Morgan led Negro troops in the battle of Nash- 
ville. He declared a new chapter in the history of liberty had been 
written. "It had been shown that marching under a flag of freedom, 
animated by a love of liberty, even the slave becomes a man and a 


hero." Between eight and ten thousand Negro troops took part in the 
battles around Nashville, all of them from slave states. 

When General Thomas rode over the battlefield, and saw the bodies 
of colored men side by side with the foremost on the very works of 
the enemy, he turned to his staff, saying: "Gentlemen, the question is 
settled: Negroes will fight." 

How extraordinary, and what a tribute to ignorance and religious 
hypocrisy, is the fact that in the minds of most people, even those of 
liberals, only murder makes men. The slave pleaded; he was humble; 
he protected the women of the South, and the world ignored him. 
The slave killed white men; and behold, he was a man! 

The New York Times said conservatively, in 1863: 

"Negro soldiers have now been in battle at Port Hudson and at 
Milliken's Bend in Louisiana, at Helena in Arkansas, at Morris Island 
in South Carolina, and at or near Fort Gibson in the Indian territory. 
In two of these instances they assaulted fortified positions, and led the 
assault; in two, they fought on the defensive, and in one, they attacked 
rebel infantry. In all of them, they acted in conjunction with white 
troops, and under command of white officers. In some instances, they 
acted with distinguished bravery, and in all, they acted as well as could 
be expected of raw troops." 

Even the New York Herald wrote in May, 1864: 

"The conduct of the colored troops, by the way, in the actions of 
the last few days, is described as superb. An Ohio soldier said to me 
today, 'I never saw men fight with such desperate gallantry as those 
Negroes did. They advanced as grim and stern as death, and when 
within reach of the enemy struck about them with pitiless vigor, that 
was almost fearful.' Another soldier said to me: 'These Negroes never 
shrink, nor hold back, no matter what the order. Through scorching 
heat and pelting storms, if the order comes, they march with prompt, 
ready feet.' Such praise is great praise, and it is deserved." 

And there was a significant dispatch in the New York Tribune 
July 26th: 

"In speaking of the soldierly qualities of our colored troops, I do 
not refer especially to their noble action in the perilous edge of the 
battle; that is settled, but to their docility and their patience of labor 
and suffering in the camp and on the march." 

Grant was made Lieutenant-General in 1864, and began to reor- 
ganize the armies. When he came East, he found that few Negro 
troops had been used in Virginia. He therefore transferred nearly 
twenty thousand Negroes from the Southern and Western armies to 
the army of Virginia. They fought in nearly all the battles around 
Petersburg and Richmond, and officers on the field reported: 


"The problem is solved. The Negro is a man, a soldier, a hero. 
Knowing of your laudable interest in the colored troops, but particu- 
larly those raised under the immediate auspices of the Supervisory 
Committee, I have thought it proper that I should let you know how 
they acquitted themselves in the late actions in front of Petersburg, of 
which you have already received newspaper accounts. If you remem- 
ber, in my conversations upon the character of these troops, I care- 
fully avoided saying anything about their fighting qualities till I could 
have an opportunity of trying them." 30 

When the siege of Petersburg began, there were desperate battles 
the 1 6th, 17th and 18th of June. The presence of Negro soldiers ren- 
dered the enemy especially spiteful, and there were continual scrim- 
mages and sharp shooting. Burnside's 9th Corps had a brigade of black 
troops, who advanced within fifty yards of the enemy works. There 
was a small projecting fort which it was decided to mine and destroy. 
The colored troops were to charge after the mine was set off. An in- 
specting officer reported that the "black corps was fittest for the peril- 
ous services," but Meade objected to colored troops leading the as- 
sault. Burnside insisted. The matter was referred to Grant, and he 
agreed with Meade. A white division led the assault and failed. The 
battle of the Crater followed. Captain McCabe says: "It was now 
eight o'clock in the morning. The rest of Potter's (Federal) division 
moved out slowly, when Ferrero's Negro division, the men beyond 
question, inflamed with drink [There are many officers and men, 
myself among the number, who will testify to this], burst from the 
advanced lines, cheering vehemently, passed at a double quick over a 
crest under a heavy fire, and rushed with scarcely a check over the 
heads of the white troops in the crater, spread to their right, and cap- 
tured more than two hundred prisoners and one stand of colors." 

General Grant afterward said: "General Burnside wanted to put his 
colored troops in front. I believe if he had done so, it would have been 
a success." 31 

The following spring, April 3rd, the Federal troops entered Rich- 
mond. Weitzel was leading, with a black regiment in his command 
— a long blue line with gun-barrels gleaming, and bands playing: 
"John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave but his soul goes 
marching on." 

President Lincoln visited the city after the surrender, and the Con- 
necticut colored troops, known as the 29th Colored Regiment, wit- 
nessed his entry. One member of this unit said: 

"When the President landed, there was no carriage near, neither did 
he wait for one, but leading his son, they walked over a mile to Gen- 


eral Weitzel's headquarters at Jeff Davis' mansion, a colored man 
acting as guide. . . . What a spectacle! I never witnessed such rejoic- 
ing in all my life. As the President passed along the street, the colored 
people waved their handkerchiefs, hats and bonnets, and expressed 
their gratitude by shouting repeatedly, 'Thank God for His goodness; 
we have seen His salvation.' ... 

"No wonder tears came to his eyes, when he looked on the poor 
colored people who were once slaves, and heard the blessings uttered 
from thankful hearts and thanksgiving to God and Jesus. . . . After 
visiting Jefferson Davis' mansion, he proceeded to the rebel capitol, 
and from the steps delivered a short speech, and spoke to the colored 
people, as follows: 

" 'In reference to you, colored people, let me say God has made you 
free. Although you have been deprived of your God-given rights by 
your so-called masters, you are now as free as I am, and if those that 
claim to be your superiors do not know that you are free, take the 
sword and bayonet and teach them that you are — for God created all 
men free, giving to each the same rights of life, liberty and the pursuit 
of happiness.' " 32 

The recruiting of Negro soldiers was hastened after the battle of Fort 
Wagner, until finally no less than 154 regiments, designated as United 
States Negro troops, were enlisted. They included 140 infantry regi- 
ments, seven cavalry regiments, 13 artillery regiments, and 11 separate 
companies and batteries. 33 The whole number enlisted will never be 
accurately known, since in the Department of the Gulf and elsewhere, 
there was a practice of putting a living Negro soldier in a dead one's 
place under the same name. 

Official figures say that there were in all 186,017 Negro troops, of 
whom 123,156 were still in service, July 16, 1865; and that the losses 
during the war were 68,178. They took part in 198 battles and skir- 
mishes. Without doubt, including servants, laborers and spies, between 
three and four hundred thousand Negroes helped as regular soldiers 
or laborers in winning the Civil War. 

The world knows that noble inscription on St. Gaudens' Shaw 
Monument in Boston Common written by President Eliot: 


Taking Life and Honor in their Hands — Cast their lot with Men 
of a Despised Race Unproved in War — and Risked Death as Inciters 
of a Servile Insurrection if Taken Prisoners, Besides Encountering all 
the Common Perils of Camp, March, and Battle. 




Volunteered when Disaster Clouded the Union Cause — Served 
without Pay for Eighteen Months till Given that of White Troops — 
Faced Threatened Enslavement if Captured — Were Brave in Action 
— Patient under Dangerous and Heavy Labors and Cheerful amid 
Hardships and Privations. 


They Gave to the Nation Undying Proof that Americans of African 
Descent Possess the Pride, Courage, and Devotion of the Patriot Sol- 
dier — One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Such Americans Enlisted 
under the Union Flag in mdccclxiii-mdccclxv. 

Not only did Negroes fight in the ranks, but also about 75 served 
as commissioned officers, and a large number as subalterns. Major 
F. E. Dumas of Louisiana was a free Negro, and a gentleman of edu- 
cation, ability and property. He organized a whole company of his 
own slaves, and was promoted to the rank of Major. Many of the 
other Louisiana officers were well-educated. Among these officers were 
1 Major, 27 Captains and 38 Lieutenants, and nearly 100 non-com- 
missioned officers. In the other colored regiments, most of the officers 
were whites; but Massachusetts commissioned 10 Negro officers, and 
Kansas 3. There were, outside Louisiana, 1 Lieutenant-Colonel, 1 
Major, 2 Captains, 2 Surgeons, and 4 Lieutenants, whose records are 
known. There were a number of mulattoes who served as officers in 
white regiments; one was on the stafl of a Major-General of Volun- 
teers. 34 Medals of honor were bestowed by the United States govern- 
ment for heroic conduct on the field of battle upon 14 Negroes. 

The Confederates furiously denounced the arming of Negroes. The 
Savannah Republican called Hunter "the cold-blooded Abolition mis- 
creant, who from his headquarters at Hilton Head, is engaged in 
executing the bloody and savage behests of the imperial gorilla, who 
from his throne of human bones at Washington, rules, reigns and riots 
over the destinies of the brutish and degraded North." The officers in 
command of black troops were branded as outlaws. If captured, they 
were to be treated as common felons. To be killed by a Negro was a 
shameful death. To be shot by the Irish and Germans from Northern 
city slums was humiliating, but for masters to face armed bodies of 
their former slaves was inconceivable. When, therefore, black men 
were enrolled in Northern armies, the Confederates tried to pillory 
the government internationally on the ground that this was arming 
barbarians for servile war. 


In a message to the Confederate Congress, Jefferson Davis asked 
"our fellowmen of all countries to pass judgment on a measure by 
which several millions of human beings of an inferior race — peaceful 
and contented laborers in their sphere — are doomed to extermination, 
while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination 
of their masters by the insidious recommendation to abstain from 
violence unless in necessary defense. Our own detestation of those 
who have attempted the most execrable measures recorded in the his- 
tory of guilty men is tempered by profound contempt for the impo- 
tent rage which it discloses. So far as regards the action of this govern- 
ment on such criminals as may attempt its execution, I confine myself 
to informing you that I shall — unless in your wisdom you deem some 
other course expedient — deliver to the several State authorities all 
commissioned officers of the United States that may hereafter be cap- 
tured by our forces in any of the States embraced in the Proclamation, 
that they may be dealt with in accordance with the laws of those 
States providing for the punishment of criminals engaged in exciting 
servile insurrection." 35 

In December, 1862, he issued a proclamation, "that all Negro slaves 
captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities, 
of the respective States to which they belonged and to be dealt with 
according to the law of the said States," which, of course, meant death. 
The same month, the Confederate Congress passed resolutions con- 
firming in the main the President's Proclamation ordering that com- 
missioned officers commanding Negro troops be put to death by the 
Confederate government, while the Negroes be turned over to the 

The fire of the Confederates was always concentrated upon the 
black troops, and Negroes captured suffered indignities and cruelties. 
Frederick Douglass, who visited the White House in the President's 
carriage "to take tea," appealed in behalf of his fellow blacks. If they 
served in Federal uniform, he said that they should receive the treat- 
ment of prisoners of war. This treatment of Negro soldiers brought 
rebuke from Abraham Lincoln; but worse than that, it brought fearful 
retaliation upon the field of battle. 

The most terrible case of Confederate cruelty was the massacre at 
Fort Pillow. When Major Booth refused to surrender the fort the 
Confederate General Forrest gave a signal, and his troops made a 
fierce charge. In ten minutes, they had swept in. Federal troops sur- 
rendered; but an indiscriminate massacre followed. The black troops 
were shot down in their tracks; pinioned to the ground with bayonets 
and saber. Some were clubbed to death while dying of wounds; others 
were made to get down upon their knees, in which condition they 


were shot to death. Some were burned alive, having been fastened in- 
side the buildings, while still others were nailed against the houses, 
tortured, and then burned to a crisp. 

The dilemma of the South in the matter of Negro troops grew more 
perplexing. Negroes made good soldiers; that, the Northern experi- 
ment had proven beyond peradventure. The prospect of freedom was 
leading an increasing stream of black troops into the Federal army. 
This stream could be diverted into the Southern army, if the lure of 
freedom were offered by the Confederacy. But this would be an as- 
tonishing ending for a war in defense of slavery! 

In the first year of the war large numbers of Negroes were in the 
service of the Confederates as laborers. In January, at Mobile, num- 
bers of Negroes from the plantations of Alabama were at work on 
the redoubts. These were very substantially made, and strengthened 
by sand-bags and sheet-iron. Elsewhere in the South Negroes were 
employed in building fortifications, as teamsters and helpers in army 
service. In 1862, the Florida Legislature conferred authority upon the 
Governor to impress slaves for military purposes, if so authorized by 
the Confederate Government. The Confederate Congress provided by 
law in February, 1864, for the impressment of 20,000 slaves for menial 
service in the Confederate army. President Davis was so satisfied with 
their labor that he suggested, in his annual message, November, 1864, 
that this number should be increased to 40,000, with the promise of 
emancipation at the end of their service. 36 

In Louisiana, the Adjutant-General's Office of the Militia stated that 
"the Governor and the Commander-in-Chief relying implicitly upon 
the loyalty of the free colored population of the city and state, for the 
protection of their homes, their property and for Southern rights, from 
the pollution of a ruthless invader, and believing that the military 
organization which existed prior to February 15, 1862, and elicited 
praise and respect for the patriotic motives which prompted it, should 
exist for and during the war, calls upon them to maintain their organ- 
ization and hold themselves prepared for such orders as may be trans- 
mitted to them." 

These "Native Guards" joined the Confederate forces but they did 
not leave the city with these troops. When General Butler learned of 
this organization, he sent for several of the prominent colored men 
and asked why they had accepted service under the Confederate gov- 
ernment. They replied that they dared not refuse, and hoped by 
serving the Confederates to advance nearer to equality with the whites. 

In Charleston on January 2, 150 free colored men offered their 
services to hasten the work of throwing up redoubts along the coast. 
At Nashville, Tennessee, April, 1861, a company of free Negroes 


offered their services to the Confederates, and at Memphis a recruit- 
ing office was opened. The Legislature of Tennessee authorized Gov- 
ernor Harris, on June 28, 1861, to receive into military service all male 
persons of color between the ages of fifteen and fifty. A procession of 
several hundred colored men marched under the command of Con- 
federate officers and carried shovels, axes, and blankets. The observer 
adds, "they were brimful of patriotism, shouting for Jeff Davis and 
singing war songs." A paper in Lynchburg, Virginia, commenting on 
the enlistment of 70 free Negroes to fight for the defense of the State, 
concluded with "three cheers for the patriotic Negroes of Lynchburg." 

After the firing on Fort Sumter, several companies of Negro volun- 
teers passed through Augusta on their way to Virginia. They con- 
sisted of sixteen companies of volunteers and one Negro company 
from Nashville. In November of the same year, twenty-eight thousand 
troops passed before Governor Moore, General Lowell and General 
Ruggles at New Orleans. The line of march was over seven miles, 
and one regiment comprised 1,400 free colored men. The Baltimore 
Traveler commenting on arming Negroes at Richmond, said: "Con- 
trabands who have recently come within the Federal lines at Williams- 
port, report that all the able-bodied men in that vicinity are being 
taken to Richmond, formed into regiments, and armed for the defense 
of that city." 

In February, 1862, the Confederate Legislature of Virginia consid- 
ered a bill to enroll all free Negroes in the State for service with the 
Confederate forces. 

While then the Negroes helped the Confederates as forced laborers 
and in a few instances as soldiers, the Confederates feared to trust 
them far, and hated the idea of depending for victory and defense on 
these very persons for whose slavery they were fighting. But in the 
last days of the struggle, no straw could be overlooked. In December, 
1863, Major-General Patrick R. Cleburne, who commanded a division 
in Hardee's Corps of the Confederate Army of the Tennessee, sent in 
a paper in which the employment of the slaves as soldiers of the South 
was vigorously advocated. Cleburne urged that "freedom within a 
reasonable time" be granted to every slave remaining true to the Con- 
federacy, and was moved to this action by the valor of the Fifty- 
Fourth Massachusetts, saying: "If they [the Negroes] can be made to 
face and fight bravely against their former masters, how much more 
probable is it that with the allurement of a higher reward, and led by 
those masters, they would submit to discipline and face dangers?" 

President Davis was not convinced, and endorsed Cleburne's plea 
with the statement: "I deem it inexpedient at this time to give pub- 
licity to this paper, and request that it be suppressed." 


In September, 1864, Governor Allen of Louisiana wrote to J. A. 
Seddon, Secretary of War in the Confederate government: "The time 
has come to put into the army every able-bodied Negro as a soldier. 
The Negro knows he cannot escape conscription if he goes to the 
enemy. He must play an important part in the war. He caused the 
fight, and he will have his portion of the burden to bear. ... I would 
free all able to bear arms, and put them in the field at once." In that 
year, 1864, 100,000 poor whites deserted the Confederate armies. In 
November, 1864, Jefferson Davis in his message to the Confederate 
Congress recognized that slaves might be needed in the Confederate 
army. He said: "The subject is to be viewed by us, therefore, solely in 
the light of policy and our social economy. When so regarded, I must 
dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of slaves 
for the duty of soldiers. Until our white population shall prove insuf- 
ficient for the armies we require and can afford to keep the field, to 
employ as a soldier the Negro, who has merely been trained to labor, 
and as a laborer under the white man accustomed from his youth to 
the use of firearms, would scarcely be deemed wise or advantageous 
by any; and this is the question before us. But should the alternative 
ever be presented of subjugation or of the employment of the slave 
as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should be our deci- 

In response to an inquiry from the Confederate Secretary of War, as 
to arming slaves, Howell Cobb of Georgia opposed the measure to 
arm the Negroes. "I think that the proposition to make soldiers of our 
slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the 
war began . . . you cannot make soldiers of slaves or slaves of sol- 
diers. The moment you resort to Negro soldiers, your white soldiers 
will be lost to you, and one secret of the favor with which the proposi- 
tion is received in portions of the army is the hope when Negroes go 
into the army, they [the whites] will be permitted to retire. It is sim- 
ply a proposition to fight the balance of the war with Negro troops. 
You can't keep white and black troops together and you can't trust 
Negroes by themselves. . . . Use all the Negroes you can get for all 
purposes for which you need them but don't arm them. The day you 
make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution." 

J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, on the other hand, declared that 
the slaves would be made to fight against the South, if Southerners 
failed to arm them for their own defense. He advocated emancipation 
for such black soldiers at a large meeting at Richmond: "We have 
680,000 blacks capable of bearing arms, and who ought now to be in 
the field. Let us now say to every Negro who wishes to go into the 
ranks on condition of being free, go and fight — you are free." 



In a letter to President Davis, another correspondent added: "I 
would not make a soldier of the Negro if it could be helped, but we 
are reduced to this last resort." Sam Clayton of Georgia wrote: "The 
recruits should come from our Negroes, nowhere else. We should 
away with pride of opinion, away with false pride, and promptly take 
hold of all the means God has placed without our reach to help us 
through this struggle — a war for the right of self-government. Some 
people say that Negroes will not fight. I say they will fight. They 
fought at Ocean Pond [Olustee, Florida], Honey Hill and other places. 
The enemy fights us with Negroes, and they will do very well to fight 
the Yankees." 

In January, 1865, General Lee sent his celebrated statement to An- 
drew Hunter: 

"We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when 
they can secure it at once by going to the enemy, in whose service they 
will incur no greater risk than in ours. The reasons that induce me 
to recommend the employment of Negro troops at all render the effect 
of the measures I have suggested upon slavery immaterial, and in my 
opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this 
auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well- 
digested plan of gradual and general emancipation. As that will be 
the result of the continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the 
enemy succeeds, it seems to me most advisable to do it at once, and 
thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause. 38 

This letter was discussed by the Confederates, and February 8, Sen- 
ator Brown of Mississippi, introduced into the Confederate Congress 
a resolution which would have freed 200,000 Negroes and enrolled 
them in the army. This was voted down. 

JefTerson Davis in a letter to John Forsythe, February, 1865, said 
that "all arguments as to the positive advantage or disadvantage of 
employing them are beside the question, which is simply one of rela- 
tive advantage between having their fighting element in our ranks or 
in those of the enemy." 

On February 11, another bill to enroll 200,000 Negro soldiers was 
introduced, and for a while it looked as though it would pass. General , 
Lee again wrote, declaring the measure not only expedient but neces- 
sary, and that "under proper circumstances, the Negroes will make 
efficient soldiers." 

The Richmond Whig of February 20, 1865, declared "that the 
proposition to put Negroes in the army has gained rapidly of late, and 
promises in some form or other to be adopted. . . . The enemy has 
taught us a lesson to which we ought not to shut our eyes. He has 


caused him to fight as well, if not better, than have his white troops 
of the same length of service." 

Jefferson Davis discussed the matter with the Governor of Virginia, 
and said that he had been in conference with the Secretary of War 
and the Adjutant-General. He declared that the aid of recruiting offi- 
cers for the purpose of enlisting Negroes would be freely accepted. 
March 17, it was said: "We shall have a Negro army. Letters are pour- 
ing into the departments from men of military skill and character 
asking authority to raise companies, battalions, and regiments of 
Negro troops." 39 

Thus on recommendation from General Lee and Governor Smith 
of Virginia, and with the approval of President Davis, an act was 
passed by the Confederate Congress, March 13, 1865, enrolling slaves 
in the Confederate army. Each State was to furnish a quota of the 
total 300,000. The preamble of the act reads as follows: 

"An Act to increase the Military Force of the Confederate States: 
The Congress of the Confederate States of America so enact, that, in 
order to provide additional forces to repel invasion, maintain the right- 
ful possession of the Confederate States, secure their independence and 
preserve their institutions, the President be, and he is hereby author- 
ized to ask for and accept from the owners of slaves, the services of 
such number of able-bodied Negro men as he may deem expedient, 
for and during the war, to perform military service in whatever ca- 
pacity he may direct. . . ." The language used implied that volun- 
teering was to be rewarded by freedom. 

General Lee cooperated with the War Department in hastening the 
recruiting of Negro troops. Recruiting officers were appointed in 
nearly all Southern States. Lieutenant John L. Cowardin, Adjutant, 
19th Battalion, Virginia Artillery, was ordered April 1, 1865, to recruit 
Negro troops according to the act. On March 30, 1865, Captain Ed- 
ward Bostick was ordered to raise four companies in South Carolina. 
Other officers were ordered to raise companies in Alabama, Florida, 
and Virginia. "It was the opinion of President Davis, on learning of 
the passage of the act, that not so much was accomplished as would 
have been, if the act had been passed earlier so that during the winter 
the slaves could have been drilled and made ready for the spring cam- 
paign of 1865." 

It was too late now, and on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered. 

Negroes well within the Confederate lines were not insensible of 
what was going on. A colored newspaper said: 

"Secret associations were at once organized in Richmond, which 
rapidly spread throughout Virginia, where the venerable patriarchs of 
the oppressed people prayerfully assembled together to deliberate upon 


the proposition of taking up arms in defense of the South. There was 
but one opinion as to the rebellion and its object; but the question 
which puzzled them most was, how were they to act the part about 
to be assigned to them in this martial drama? After a cordial inter- 
change of opinions, it was decided with great unanimity, and finally 
ratified by all the auxiliary associations everywhere, that black men 
should promptly respond to the call of the Rebel chiefs, whenever it 
should be made, for them to take up arms. 

"A question arose as to what position they would likely occupy in 
an engagement, which occasioned no little solicitude; from which 
all minds were relieved by agreeing that if they were placed in front 
as soon as the battle began the Negroes were to raise a shout about 
Abraham Lincoln and the Union, and, satisfied there would be plenty 
of supports from the Federal force, they were to turn like uncaged 
tigers upon the rebel hordes. Should they be placed in the rear, it was 
also understood, that as soon as firing began, they were to charge 
furiously upon the chivalry, which would place them between two 
fires; which would disastrously defeat the army of Lee, if not accom- 
plish its entire annihilation." 40 

Of the effect of Negro soldiers in the Northern army, there can be 
no doubt. John *C. Underwood, resident of Virginia for twenty years, 
said before the Committee on Reconstruction: 

"I had a conversation with one of the leading men in that city, and 
he said to me that the enlistment of Negro troops by the United States 
was the turning-point of the rebellion; that it was the heaviest blow 
they ever received. He remarked that when the Negroes deserted their 
masters, and showed a general disposition to do so and join the forces 
of the United States, intelligent men everywhere saw that the matter 
was ended. I have often heard a similar expression of opinion from 
others, and I am satisfied that the origin of this bitterness towards the 
Negro is this belief among the leading men that their weight thrown 
into the scale decided the contest against them. However the fact may 
be, I think that such is a pretty well settled conclusion among leading 
Rebels in Virginia." 41 

A Unidn general said: "The American Civil War of 1861-1865 marks 
an epoch not only in the history of the United States, but in that of 
democracy, and of civilization. Its issue has vitally affected the course 
of human progress. To the student of history it ranks along with the 
conquests of Alexander; the incursions of the Barbarians; the Cru- 
sades; the discovery of America, and the American Revolution. It 
settled the question of our National unity with all the consequences 
attaching thereto. It exhibited in a very striking manner the power 
of a free people to preserve their form of government against its most 


dangerous foe, Civil War. It not only enfranchised four millions of 
American slaves of African descent, but made slavery forever impos- 
sible in the great Republic, and gave a new impulse to the cause of 
human freedom." 42 

It was not the Abolitionist alone who freed the slaves. The Aboli- 
tionists never had a real majority of the people of the United States 
back of them. Freedom for the slave was the logical result of a crazy 
attempt to wage war in the midst of four million black slaves, and try- 
ing the while sublimely to ignore the interests of those slaves in the 
outcome of the fighting. Yet, these slaves had enormous power in 
their hands. Simply by stopping work, they could threaten the Con- 
federacy with starvation. By walking into the Federal camps, they 
showed to doubting Northerners the easy possibility of using them 
as workers and as servants, as farmers, and as spies, and finally, as 
fighting soldiers. And not only using them thus, but by the same ges- 
ture, depriving their enemies of their use in just these fields. It was 
the fugitive slave who made the slaveholders face the alternative of 
surrendering to the North, or to the Negroes. 

It was this plain alternative that brought Lee's sudden surrender. 
Either the South must make terms with its slaves, free them, use them 
to fight the North, and thereafter no longer treat them as bondsmen; 
or they could surrender to the North with the assumption that the 
North, after the war, must help them to defend slavery, as it had be- 
fore. It was then that Abolition came in as a determining factor, and 
itself was transformed to a new democratic movement. 

So in blood and servile war, freedom came to America. What did 
it mean to men? The paradox of a democracy founded on slavery 
had at last been done away with. But it became more and more cus- 
tomary as time went on, to linger on and emphasize the freedom 
which emancipation brought to the masters, and later to the poor 
whites. On the other hand, strangely enough, not as much has been 
said of what freedom meant to the freed; of the sudden wave of glory 
that rose and burst above four million people, and of the echoing 
shout that brought joy to four hundred thousand fellows of African 
blood in the North. Can we imagine this spectacular revolution? Not, 
of course, unless we think of these people as human beings like our- 
selves. Not unless, assuming this common humanity, we conceive 
ourselves in a position where we are chattels and real estate, and 
then suddenly in a night become "thenceforward and forever free." 
Unless we can do this, there is, of course, no point in thinking of this 
central figure in emancipation. But assuming the common humanity of 
these people, conceive of what happened : before the war, the slave was 
curiously isolated; this was the policy, and the effective policy of the 


slave system, which made the plantation the center of a black group 
with a network of white folk around and about, who kept the slaves 
from contact with each other. Of course, clandestine contact there 
always was; the passing of Negroes to and fro on errands; particu- 
larly the semi-freedom and mingling in cities; and yet, the mass of 
slaves were curiously provincial and kept out of the currents of in- 

There came the slow looming of emancipation. Crowds and armies 
of the unknown, inscrutable, unfathomable Yankees; cruelty behind 
and before; rumors of a new slave trade; but slowly, continuously, the 
wild truth, the bitter truth, the magic truth, came surging through. 

There was to be a new freedom! And a black nation went tramping 
after the armies no matter what it suffered; no matter how it was 
treated, no matter how it died. First, without masters, without food, 
without shelter; then with new masters, food that was free, and 
improvised shelters, cabins, homes; and at last, land. They prayed; 
they worked; they danced and sang; they studied to learn; they 
wanted to wander. Some for the first time in their lives saw Town; 
some left the plantation and walked out into the world; some handled 
actual money, and some with arms in their hands, actually fought for 
freedom. An unlettered leader of fugitive slaves pictured it: "And 
then we saw the lightning — that was the guns! and then we heard 
the thunder — that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain fall- 
ing, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to 
git in the craps it was dead men that we reaped." 

The mass of slaves, even the more intelligent ones, and certainly 
the great group of field hands, were in religious and hysterical fervor. 
This was the coming of the Lord. This was the fulfillment of proph- 
ecy and legend. It was the Golden Dawn, after chains of a thousand 
years. It was everything miraculous and perfect and promising. For 
the first time in their life, they could travel; they could see; they could 
change the dead level of their labor; they could talk to friends and 
sit at sundown and in moonlight, listening and imparting wonder- 
tales. They could hunt in the swamps, and fish in the rivers. And 
above all, they could stand up and assert themselves. They need not 
fear the patrol; they need not even cringe before a white face, and 
touch their hats. 

To the small group of literate and intelligent black folk, North and 
South, this was a sudden beginning of an entirely new era. They were 
at last to be recognized as men; and if they were given the proper 
social and political power, their future as American citizens was as- 
sured. They had, therefore, to talk and agitate for their civil and 


political rights. With these, in thought and object, stood some of the 
intelligent slaves of the South. 

On the other hand, the house servants and mechanics among the 
freed slaves faced difficulties. The bonds which held them to their 
former masters were not merely sentiment. The masters had stood 
between them and a world in which they had no legal protection ex- 
cept the master. The masters were their source of information. The 
question, then, was how far they could forsake the power of the mas- 
ters, even when it was" partially overthrown? For whom would the 
slave mechanic work, and how could he collect his wages? What 
would be his status in court ? What protection would he have against 
the competing mechanic? 

Back of this, through it all, combining their own intuitive sense 
with what friends and leaders taught them, these black folk wanted 
two things — first, land which they could own and work for their own 
crops. This was the natural outcome of slavery. Some of them had 
been given by their masters little plots to work on, and raise their own 
food. Sometimes they raised hogs and chickens, in addition. This faint 
beginning of industrial freedom now pictured to them economic free- 
dom. They wanted little farms which would make them independent. 

Then, in addition to that, they wanted to know; they wanted to be 
able to interpret the cabalistic letters and figures which were the key 
to more. They were consumed with curiosity at the meaning of the 
world. First and foremost, just what was this that had recently hap- 
pened about them — this upturning of the universe and revolution of 
the whole social fabric ? And what was its relation to their own dimly 
remembered past of the West Indies and Africa, Virginia and Ken- 
tucky ? 

They were consumed with desire for schools. The uprising of the 
black man, and the pouring of himself into organized effort for edu- 
cation, in those years between 1861 and 1871, was one of the marvelous 
occurrences of the modern world; almost without parallel in the his- 
tory of civilization. The movement that was started was irresistible. 
It planted the free common school in a part of the nation, and in a 
part of the world, where it had never been known, and never been 
recognized before. Free, then, with a desire for land and a frenzy for 
schools, the Negro lurched into the new day. 

Suppose on some gray day, as you plod down Wall Street, you 
should see God sitting on the Treasury steps, in His Glory, with the 
thunders curved about him? Suppose on Michigan Avenue, between 
the lakes and hills of stone, and in the midst of hastening automobiles 


and jostling crowds, suddenly you see living and walking toward you, 
the Christ, with sorrow and sunshine in his face? 

Foolish talk, all of this, you say, of course; and that is because no 
American now believes in his religion. Its facts are mere symbolism; 
its revelation vague generalities; its ethics a matter of carefully bal- 
anced gain. But to most of the four million black folk emancipated 
by civil war, God was real. They knew Him. They had met Him 
personally in many a wild orgy of religious frenzy, or in the black 
stillness of the night. His plan for them was clear; they were to suffer 
and be degraded, and then afterwards by Divine edict, raised to man- 
hood and power; and so on January i, 1863, He made them free. 

It was all foolish, bizarre, and tawdry. Gangs of dirty Negroes howl- 
ing and dancing; poverty-stricken ignorant laborers mistaking war, 
destruction and revolution for the mystery of the free human soul; 
and yet to these black folk it was the Apocalypse. The magnificent 
trumpet tones of Hebrew Scripture, transmuted and oddly changed, 
became a strange new gospel. All that was Beauty, all that was Love, 
all that was Truth, stood on the top of these mad mornings and sang 
with the stars. A great human sob shrieked in the wind, and tossed its 
tears upon the sea, — free, free, free. 

There was joy in the South. It rose like perfume — like a prayer. 
Men stood quivering. Slim dark girls, wild and beautiful with wrin- 
kled hair, wept silently; young women, black, tawny, white and 
golden, lifted shivering hands, and old and broken mothers, black 
and gray, raised great voices and shouted to God across the fields, and 
up to the rocks and the mountains. 

A great song arose, the loveliest thing born this side the seas. It was 
a new song. It did not come from Africa, though the dark throb and 
beat of that Ancient of Days was in it and through it. It did not come 
from white America — never from so pale and hard and thin a thing, 
however deep these vulgar and surrounding tones had driven. Not 
the Indies nor the hot South, the cold East or heavy West made that 
music. It was a new song and its deep and plaintive beauty, its great 
cadences and wild appeal wailed, throbbed and thundered on the 
world's ears with a message seldom voiced by man. It swelled and 
blossomed like incense, improvised and born anew out of an age long 
past, and weaving into its texture the old and new melodies in word 
and in thought. 

They sneered at it — those white Southerners who heard it and never 
understood. They raped and defiled it — those white Northerners who 
listened without ears. Yet it lived and grew; always it grew and 


swelled and lived, and it sits today at the right hand of God, as Amer- 
ica's one real gift to beauty; as slavery's one redemption, distilled 
from the dross of its dung. 

The world at first neither saw nor understood. Of all that most 
Americans wanted, this freeing of slaves was the last. Everything 
black was hideous. Everything Negroes did was wrong. If they fought 
for freedom, they were beasts; if they did not fight, they were born 
slaves. If they cowered on the plantations, they loved slavery; if they 
ran away, they were lazy loafers. If they sang, they were silly; if they 
scowled, they were impudent. 

The bites and blows of a nation fell on them. All hatred that the 
whites after the Civil War had for each other gradually concentrated 
itself on them. They caused the war — they, its victims. They were 
guilty of all the thefts of those who stole. They were the cause of 
wasted property and small crops. They had impoverished the South, 
and plunged the North into endless debt. And they were funny, funny 
— ridiculous baboons, aping man. 

Southerners who had suckled food from black breasts vied with 
each other in fornication with black women, and even in beastly incest. 
They took the name of their fathers in vain to seduce their own sisters. 
Nothing — nothing that black folk did or said or thought or sang was 
sacred. For seventy years few Americans had dared say a fair word 
about a Negro. 

There was no one kind of Negro who was freed from slavery. The 
freedmen were not an undifferentiated group; there were those among 
them who were cowed and altogether bitter. There were the cowed 
who were humble; there were those openly bitter and defiant, but 
whipped into submission, or ready to run away. There were the de- 
bauched and the furtive, petty thieves and licentious scoundrels. There 
were the few who could read and write, and some even educated be- 
yond that. There were the children and grandchildren of white mas- 
ters; there were the house servants, trained in manners, and in servile 
respect for the upper classes. There were the ambitious, who sought 
by means of slavery to gain favor or even freedom; there were the 
artisans, who had a certain modicum of freedom in their work, were 
often hired out, and worked practically as free laborers. The impact 
of legal freedom upon these various classes differed in all sorts of ways. 

And yet emancipation came not simply to black folk in 1863; to 
white Americans came slowly a new vision and a new uplift, a sudden 
freeing of hateful mental shadows. At last democracy was to be justi- 
fied of its own children. The nation was to be purged of continual sin 


not indeed all of its own doing — due partly to its inheritance; and yet 
a sin, a negation that gave the world the right to sneer at the preten- 
sions of this republic. At last there could really be a free common- 
wealth of freemen. 

Thus, amid enthusiasm and philanthropy, and religious fervor that 
surged over the whole country, the black man became in word "hence- 
forward and forever free." 

"Fondly do we hope and fervently do we pray, that this mighty 
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it con- 
tinue until all the wealth piled up by the bondman's two hundred and 
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of 
blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the 
sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 
'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' ' 
Thus spake Father Abraham, "the Imperial Gorilla of Washington," 
Lord of armies vaster than any the Caesars ever saw, over a barnyard 
reeking with offal, and a land dripping with tears and blood. Sud- 
denly, there was Reason in all this mad orgy. Suddenly the world 
knew why this blundering horror of civil war had to be. God had 
come to America, and the land, fire-drunk, howled the hymn of joy: 

Freude, schoner Gotterfunken, 
Tochter aus Elysium, 
Wir betreten feuertrunken, 
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum. 
Deine Zauber binden wieder, 
Was die Mode streng geteilt, 
Alle Menschen werden Briider, 
Wo dein sanfter Fliigel weilt. 
Seid umschlungen, Millionen! 

Alle Menschen . . . 
Alle Menschen . . . 


1. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, pp. 265-266. 

2. Charleston Daily Courier, January 8, 1863. 

3. Charleston Daily Courier, February 16, 1863. 

4. Jordon and Pratt, Europe and the American Civil War, p. 73. 

5. Education of Henry Adams, pp. 130-13 1. 

6. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, p. 158. 

7. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, pp. 161, 162, 163. 

8. Wilson, History of the Blac\ Phalanx, pp. 146, 147. 

9. Wilson, History of the Blac\ Phalanx, pp. 151-154. 
10. Parton, Butler in New Orleans, pp. 491, 493. 


11. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, p. 192. 

12. Wilson, History of the Blacky Phalanx, p. 195. 

13. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, pp. 292, 293. 

14. Wilson, History of the Blacky Phalanx, p. 120. 

15. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, pp. 289, 290. (Italics ours.) 

16. Herz, Abraham Lincoln, II, pp. 931-932. (Italics ours.) 

17. Woodson, Negro Orators, pp. 249, 251. 

18. Report of the Merchants Committee, p. 7. 

19. Wilson, History of the Blacky Phalanx, p. 394. 

20. Story told by Smalls to the A. M. E. General Conference, Philadelphia, May, 1864. 

21. New Orleans Tribune, May 4, 1865. 

22. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, p. 262. 

23. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, p. 305. 

24. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, p. 314. 

25. Wilson, History of the Black, Phalanx, p. 211. 

26. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, p. 321. 

27. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, pp. 320, 321. 

28. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, p. 327. 

29. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, p. 256. 

30. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, II, pp. 338, 339. 

31. Testimony Before Congressional Committee; cited in Wilson, p. 428. 

32. Hill, Sketch of the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Colored Troops, pp. 26, 27. 

33. Nicolay and Hay give 149 regiments. VI, p. 468. 

34. Cf. Wilson, History of the Black. Phalanx, Chapter IV; and Williams, History of the 

Negro Race in America, II, pp. 299-301. 

35. Wilson, History of the Black. Phalanx, pp. 316, 317. 

36. The following account is mainly from Charles Wesley's article, Journal of Negro 

History, IV, pp. 242-243. 

37. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, pp. 491, 492. 

38. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, p. 490. 

39. Wilson, History of the Black Phalanx, p. 494. 

40. New Orleans Tribune, February 25, 1865. 

41. Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 1866, p. 8. 

42. General T. J. Morgan, in Wilson, Black Phalanx, p. 289. 


How the planters, having lost the war for slavery, sought to begin 
again where they left off in i860, merely substituting for the indi- 
vidual ownership of slaves, a new state serfdom of black folk 

The young Southern fanatic who murdered Abraham Lincoln said, 
according to the New York Times, April 21, 1865: 

". . . This country was formed for the white, not the black man; 
and looking upon African slavery from the same standpoint held by 
the noble framers of our Constitution, I, for one, have ever considered 
it of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that God ever 
bestowed upon a favored nation. Witness heretofore our wealth and 
power; witness their elevation and enlightenment above their race else- 
where. I have lived among it most of my life and have seen less harsh 
treatment from master to man than I have beheld in the North from 
father to son. Yet Heaven knows, no one would be willing to do more 
for the Negro race than I, could I but see a way to still better their 
condition. But Lincoln's policy is only preparing the way for their 
total annihilation." 

The South had risked war to protect this system of labor and to 
expand it into a triumphant empire; and even if all of the Southern- 
ers did not agree with this broader program, even these had risked war 
in order to ward off the disaster of a free labor class, either white or 

Yet, they had failed. After a whirlwind of battles, in which the 
South had put energy, courage and skill, and most of their money; in 
the face of inner bickerings and divided councils, jealousy of leaders, 
indifference of poor whites and the general strike of black labor, 
they had failed in their supreme effort, and now found themselves 
with much of their wealth gone, their land widely devastated, and 
some of it confiscated, their slaves declared free, and their country 
occupied by a hostile army. "The South faced all sorts of difficulties. 
The hostilities, military and naval, had practically destroyed the whole 
commercial system of the South, and reduced the people to a pitiable 
primitive, almost barbaric level. . . . 

"It has been said that the ruining of the planting class in the South 

through war was more complete than the destruction of the nobility 



and clergy in the French Revolution. The very foundations of the 
system were shattered." x 

There was at the end of the war no civil authority with power in 
North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi 
and Texas; and in the other states, authority was only functioning in 
part under Congress or the President. "The Northern soldiers were 
transported home with provisions for their comfort, and often with 
royal welcomes, while the Southern soldiers walked home in poverty 
and disillusioned." 

Lands had deteriorated because of the failure to use fertilizers. The 
marketing of the crops was difficult and the titles to land and crops 
disputed. Government officials seized much of the produce and the 
cotton tax of 3 cents a pound bore hard upon the planters. The mortal- 
ity of the whites was so great in the decade following 1865, as to be "a 
matter of common remark." 2 

When a right and just cause loses, men suffer. But men also suffer 
when a wrong cause loses. Suffering thus in itself does not prove the 
justice or injustice of a cause. It always, however, points a grave moral. 
Certainly after the war, no one could restrain his sorrow at the de- 
struction and havoc brought upon the whites; least of all were the 
Negroes unsympathetic. Perhaps never in the history of the world have 
victims given so much of help and sympathy to their former oppressors. 
Yet the most pitiable victims of the war were not the rich planters, 
but the poor workers; not the white race, but the black. 

Naturally, the mass of the planters were bitterly opposed to the 
abolition of slavery. First, they based their opposition upon a life-long 
conviction that free Negro labor could not be made profitable. The 
New Orleans Picayune said, July 8, 1862: 

"In sober earnest, we say, and we believe all who know anything 
from observation or experience will corroborate our assertion, that this 
is an absolute impossibility. There could be no full crop produced 
under that system. The earlier processes might be performed in a 
manner and to some extent; but the later and more arduous, those 
upon the prompt performance of which depends the production of 
any crop at all, would be slighted, if not indeed entirely lost. The 
thriftless, thoughtless Negro would jingle his last month's wages in 
the planter's face and tell him to do the rest of the work himself. Look 
at Jamaica, Barbadoes, Antigua, and the other British West Indies 
where this experiment is having a most suggestive trial." 

The Texas Republican, a weekly newspaper, said: "The ruinous 
effects of freeing four millions of ignorant and helpless blacks would 
not be confined to the South, but the blight would be communicated 
to the North, and the time would come when the people of that sec- 


tion would be glad to witness a return to a system attended with more 
philanthropy and happiness to the black race than the one they seem 
determined to establish; for they will find that compulsory labor af- 
fords larger crops and a richer market for Yankee manufacturers." 
The masters were advised, therefore, not to turn their slaves loose to 
become demoralized, but to maintain a kind and protecting care over 

In addition to this, it was said that even if free Negro labor miracu- 
lously proved profitable, Negroes themselves were impossible as free- 
men, neighbors and citizens. They could not be educated and really 
civilized. And beyond that if a free, educated black citizen and voter 
could be brought upon the stage this would in itself be the worst con- 
ceivable thing on earth; worse than shiftless, unprofitable labor; worse 
than ignorance, worse than crime. It would lead inevitably to a mu- 
latto South and the eventual ruin of all civilization. 

This was a natural reaction for a country educated as the South had 
been; and that the mass of the planters passionately believed it is be- 
yond question, despite difficulties of internal logic. Even the fact that 
some thought free Negro labor practicable, and many knew perfectly 
well that at least some Negroes were capable of education and even 
of culture, these stood like a rock wall against anything further: 
against Negro citizens, against Negro voters, against any social recog- 
nition in politics, religion or culture. 

The poor whites, on the other hand, were absolutely at sea. The 
Negro was to become apparently their fellow laborer. But were the 
whites to be bound to the black laborer by economic condition and 
destiny, or rather to the white planter by community of blood? Al- 
most unanimously, following the reaction of such leaders as Andrew 
Johnson and Hinton Helper, the poor white clung frantically to the 
planter and his ideals; and although ignorant and impoverished, 
maimed and discouraged, victims of a war fought largely by the poor 
white for the benefit of the rich planter, they sought redress by de- 
manding unity of white against black, and not unity of poor against 
rich, or of worker against exploiter. 

This brought singular schism in the South. The white planter en- 
deavored to keep the Negro at work for his own profit on terms that 
amounted to slavery and which were hardly distinguishable from it. 
This was the plain voice of the slave codes. On the other hand, the 
only conceivable ambition of a poor white was to become a planter. 
Meantime the poor white did not want the Negro put to profitable 
work. He wanted the Negro beneath the feet of the white worker. 

Right here had lain the seat of the trouble before the war. All the 
regular and profitable jobs went to Negroes, and the poor whites were 


excluded. It seemed after the war immaterial to the poor white that 
profit from the exploitation of black labor continued to go to the 
planter. He regarded the process as the exploitation of black folk by 
white, not of labor by capital. When, then, he faced the possibility of 
being himself compelled to compete with a Negro wage worker, while 
both were the hirelings of a white planter, his whole soul revolted. 
He turned, therefore, from war service to guerrilla warfare, particu- 
larly against Negroes. He joined eagerly secret organizations, like the 
Ku Klux Klan, which fed his vanity by making him co-worker with 
the white planter, and gave him a chance to maintain his race superi- 
ority by killing and intimidating "niggers"; and even in secret forays 
of his own, he could drive away the planter's black help, leaving the 
land open to white labor. Or he could murder too successful freed- 

It was only when they saw the Negro with a vote in his hand, 
backed by the power and money of the nation, that the poor whites 
who followed some of the planters into the ranks of the "scalawags" 
began to conceive of an economic solidarity between white and black 
workers. In this interval they received at the hands of the black voter 
and his allies a more general right to vote, to hold office and to re- 
ceive education, privileges which the planter had always denied them. 
But before all this was so established as to be intelligently recognized, 
armed revolt in the South became organized by the planters with the 
cooperation of the mass of poor whites. Taking advantage of an in- 
dustrial crisis which throttled both democracy and industry in the 
North, this combination drove the Negro back toward slavery. Finally 
the poor whites joined the sons of the planters and disfranchised the 
black laborer, thus nullifying the labor movement in the South for a 
half century and more. 

As the Civil War staggered toward its end, the country began to 
realize that it was not only at the end of an era, but it was facing 
the beginning of a vaster and more important cycle. The emancipa- 
tion of four million slaves might end slavery, but would it not also 
be the end of its four million victims? To be sure there were many 
prophets, South and North, who foretold this fate of Negro extinc- 
tion, but they were wrong. It was the beginning of Negro develop- 
ment, and what was this development going to be? 

Back of all the enthusiasm and fervor of victory in the North came 
a wave of reflection that represented the sober after-thought of the 
nation. It harked back to a time when not one person in ten believed 
in Negroes, or in emancipation, or in any attempt to conquer the 
South. This feeling began to arise before the war closed, and after it 
ended it rose higher and higher into something like dismay. From 


before the time of Washington and Jefferson down to the Civil War, 
the nation had asked if it were possible for free Negroes to become 
American citizens in the full sense of the word. 
The answers to this problem, historically, had taken these forms: 

1. Negroes, after conversion to Christianity, were in the same posi- 
tion as other colonial subjects of the British King. This attitude dis- 
appeared early in colonial history. 

2. When the slave trade was stopped, Negroes would die out. There- 
fore, the attack upon slavery must begin with the abolition of the 
slave trade and after that the race problem would settle itself. This 
attitude was back of the slave trade laws, 1808-20. 

3. If Negroes did not die out, and if gradually by emancipation and 
the economic failure of slavery they became free, they must be sys- 
tematically deported out of the country, back to Africa or elsewhere, 
where they would develop into an independent people or die from 
laziness or disease. This represented the attitude of liberal America 
from the end of the War of 18 12 down to the beginning of the Cotton 

4. Negroes were destined to be perpetual slaves in a new economy 
which recognized a caste of slave workers. And this caste system might 
eventually displace the white worker. At any rate, it was destined to 
wider expansion toward the tropics. This was the attitude of the Con- 

It is clear that from the time of Washington and Jefferson down to 
the Civil War, when the nation was asked if it was possible for free 
Negroes to become American citizens in the full sense of the word, it 
answered by a stern and determined "No!" The persons who con- 
ceived of the Negroes as free and remaining in the United States were 
a small minority before 1861, and confined to educated free Negroes 
and some of the Abolitionists. 

This basic thought of the American nation now began gradually to 
be changed. It bore the face of fear. It showed a certain dismay at the 
thought of what the nation was facing after the war and under hyp- 
notism of a philanthropic idea. The very joy in the shout of emanci- 
pated Negroes was a threat. Who were these people? Were we not 
loosing a sort of gorilla into American freedom? Negroes were lazy, 
poor and ignorant. Moreover their ignorance was more than the igno- 
rance of whites. It was a biological, fundamental and ineradicable 
ignorance based on pronounced and eternal racial differences. The 
democracy and freedom open and possible to white men of English 
stock, and even to Continental Europeans, were unthinkable in the 
case of Africans. We were moving slowly in an absolutely impossible 


Meantime, there was anarchy in the South and the triumph of brute 
physical force over large areas. The classic report on conditions in 
the South directly after the war is that of Carl Schurz. Carl Schurz 
was of the finest type of immigrant Americans. A German of educa- 
tion and training, he had fought for liberal thought and government 
in his country, and when driven out by the failure of the revolution 
of 1848, had come to the United States, where he fought for freedom. 
No man was better prepared dispassionately to judge conditions in 
the South than Schurz. He was to be sure an idealist and doctrinaire, 
but surely the hard-headed and the practical had made mess enough 
with America. This was a time for thought and plan. Schurz's re- 
ports on his journey remain today with every internal evidence of 
truth and reliability. 

His mission came about in this way: he had written Johnson on his 
North Carolina effort at Reconstruction and Johnson invited him to 

"President Johnson received me with the assurance that he had read 
my letters with great interest and appreciation, and that he was ear- 
nestly . considering the views I had presented in them. But in one 
respect, he said, I had entirely mistaken his intentions. His North 
Carolina proclamation was not to be understood as laying down a 
general rule for the reconstruction of all 'the states lately in rebellion.' 
It was to be regarded as merely experimental, and he thought that the 
condition of things in North Carolina was especially favorable for the 
making of such an experiment. As to the Gulf States, he was very 
doubtful and even anxious. He wished to see those states restored to 
their constitutional relations with the general government as quickly 
as possible, but he did not know whether it could be done with safety 
to the Union men and to the emanicipated slaves. He therefore re- 
quested me to visit those states for the purpose of reporting to him 
whatever information I could gather as to the existing condition of 
things, and of suggesting to him such measures as my observations 
might lead me to believe advisable." 3 

In his report, Schurz differentiated four classes in the South: 

"1. Those who, although having yielded submission to the national 
government only when obliged to do so, have a clear perception of the 
irreversible changes produced by the war, and honestly endeavor to 
accommodate themselves to the new order of things. 

"2. Those whose principal object is to have the states without delay 
restored to their position and influence in the Union and the people of 
the states to the absolute control of their home concerns. They are 
ready in order to attain that object to make any ostensible concession 


that will not prevent them from arranging things to suit their taste as 
soon as that object is attained. 

"3. The incorrigibles, who still indulge in the swagger which was 
so customary before and during the war, and still hope for a time 
when the Southern confederacy will achieve its independence. 

"4. The multitude of people who have no definite ideas about the 
circumstances under which they live and about the course they have 
to follow; whose intellects are weak, but whose prejudices and im- 
pulses are strong, and who are apt to be carried along by those who 
know how to appeal to the latter." 4 

He thus describes the movements immediately following the war: 

"When the war came to a close, the labor system of the South was 
already much disturbed. During the progress of military operations 
large numbers of slaves had left their masters and followed the col- 
umns of our armies; others had taken refuge in our camps; many 
thousands had enlisted in the service of the national government. Ex- 
tensive settlements of Negroes had been formed along the seaboard 
and the banks of the Mississippi, under the supervision of army officers 
and treasury agents, and the government was feeding the colored 
refugees who could not be advantageously employed in the so-called 
contraband camps. 

"Many slaves had also been removed by their masters, as our armies 
penetrated the country, either to Texas or to the interior of Georgia 
and Alabama. Thus a considerable portion of the laboring force had 
been withdrawn from its former employments. But a majority of the 
slaves remained on the plantations to which they belonged, especially 
in those parts of the country which were not touched by the war, and 
where, consequently, the emancipation proclamation was not enforced 
by the military power. Although not ignorant of the stake they had in 
the result of the contest, the patient bondmen waited quietly for the 
development of things. 

"But as soon as the struggle was finally decided, and our forces 
were scattered about in detachments to occupy the country, the so far 
unmoved masses began to stir. The report went among them that their 
liberation was no longer a mere contingency, but a fixed fact. Large 
numbers of colored people left the plantations; many flocked to our 
military posts and camps to obtain the certainty of their freedom, and 
others walked away merely for the purpose of leaving the places on 
which they had been held in slavery, and because they could now go 
with impunity. Still others, and their number was by no means in- 
considerable, remained with their former masters and continued their 
work on the field, but under new and as yet unsettled conditions, and 
under the agitating influence of a feeling of restlessness. 


"In some localities, however, where our troops had not yet penetrated 
and where no military post was within reach, planters endeavored 
and partially succeeded in maintaining between themselves and the 
Negroes the relation of master and slave partly by concealing from 
them the great changes that had taken place, and partly by terrorizing 
them into submission to their behests. But aside from these exceptions, 
the country found itself thrown into that confusion which is naturally 
inseparable from a change so great and so sudden. The white people 
were afraid of the Negroes, and the Negroes did not trust the white 
people; the military power of the national government stood there, 
and was looked up to, as the protector of both. . . . 

"Some of the planters with whom I had occasion to converse ex- 
pressed their determination to adopt the course which best accords 
with the spirit of free labor, to make the Negro work by offering him 
fair inducements, to stimulate his ambition, and to extend to him 
those means of intellectual and moral improvement which are best 
calculated to make him an intelligent, reliable and efficient free laborer 
and a good and useful citizen. . . . 

"I regret to say that views and intentions so reasonable I found con- 
fined to a small minority. Aside from the assumption that the Negro 
will not work without physical compulsion, there appears to be an- 
other popular notion prevalent in the South which stands as no less 
serious an obstacle in the way of a successful solution of the prob- 
lem. It is that the Negro exists for the special object o£ raising cotton, 
rice and sugar for the whites, and that it is illegitimate for him to 
indulge, like other people, in the pursuit of his own happiness in his 
own way. . . . 

"I made it a special point in most of the conversations I had with 
Southern men to inquire into their views with regard to this subject. 
I found, indeed, some gentlemen of thought and liberal ideas who 
readily acknowledged the necessity of providing for the education 
of the colored people, and who declared themselves willing to co- 
operate to that end to the extent of their influence. Some planters 
thought of establishing schools on their estates, and others would 
have been glad to see measures taken to that effect by the people 
of the neighborhoods in which they lived. But whenever I asked the 
question whether it might be hoped that the legislatures of their 
states or their county authorities would make provisions for Negro 
education, I never received an affirmative, and only in two or three 
instances feebly encouraging answers. At last I was forced to the con- 
clusion that, aside from a small number of honorable exceptions, the 
popular prejudice is almost as bitterly set against the Negro's having 
the advantage of education as it was when the Negro was a slave. 


There may be an improvement in that respect, but it would prove 
only how universal the prejudice was in former days. Hundreds of 
times I heard the old assertion repeated, that 'learning will spoil the 
nigger for work,' and that 'Negro education will be the ruin of the 
South.' Another most singular notion still holds a potent sway over 
the minds of the masses — it is, that the elevation of the blacks will be 
the degradation of the whites. . . . 

"The emancipation of the slaves is submitted to only in so far as 
chattel slavery in the old form could not be kept up. But although the 
freedman is no longer considered the property of the individual mas- 
ter, he is considered the slave of society, and all independent state 
legislation will share the tendency to make him such. The ordinances 
abolishing slavery passed by the conventions under the pressure of 
circumstances will not be looked upon as barring the establishment 
of a new form of servitude." 

Carl Schurz summed the matter up: 

"Wherever I go — the street, the shop, the house, the hotel, or the 
steamboat — I hear the people talk in such a way as to indicate that 
they are yet unable to conceive of the Negro as possessing any rights 
at all. Men who are honorable in their dealings with their white 
neighbors, will cheat a Negro without feeling a single twinge of 
their honor. To kill a Negro, they do not deem murder; to debauch 
a Negro woman, they do not think fornication; to take the property 
away from a Negro, they do not consider robbery. The people boast 
that when they get freedmen's affairs in their own hands, to use their 
own expression, 'the niggers will catch hell.' 

"The reason of all this is simple and manifest. The whites esteem 
the blacks their property by natural right, and however much they 
admit that the individual relations of masters and slaves have been 
destroyed by the war and by the President's emancipation proclama- 
tion, they still have an ingrained feeling that the blacks at large belong 
to the whites at large." 

Corroboration of the main points in the thesis of Schurz came from 
many sources. 5 From Virginia: 

"Before the abolition of slavery, and before the war, it was the 
policy of slaveholders to make a free Negro as despicable a creature 
and as uncomfortable as possible. They did not want a free Negro 
about at all. They considered it an injury to the slave, as it undoubt- 
edly was, creating discontent among the slaves. The consequences 
were that there was always an intense prejudice against the free Negro. 
Now, very suddenly, all have become free Negroes; and that was not 
calculated to allay that prejudice." 

A colored man testified: 


"There was a distinct tendency toward compulsion, toward re- 
established slavery under another name. Negroes coming into York- 
town from regions of Virginia and thereabout, said that they had 
worked all year and received no pay and were driven off the first 
of January. The owners sold their crops and told them they had no 
further use for them and that they might go to the Yankees, or the 
slaveholders offered to take them back but refused to pay any wages. 
A few offered a dollar a month and clothing and food. They were 
not willing to pay anything for work." 

The courts aided the subjection of Negroes. George S. Smith of 
Virginia, resident since 1848, said that he had been in the Provost 
Marshal's department and "have had great opportunities of seeing 
the cases that are brought before him. Although I am prejudiced 
against the Negro myself, still I must tell the truth, and must acknowl- 
edge that he has rights. In more than nine cases out of ten that have 
come up in General Patrick's office, the Negro has been right and 
the white man has been wrong, and I think that that will be found 
to be the case if you examine the different provost marshals." 

It was common for Virginians in 1865 and 1866 to advocate whole- 
sale expulsion of the Negroes. This attitude arose from the slave trade : 

"The slave system in Virginia has been such as to exhaust very 
largely the able-bodied laborers; I have been informed that twenty- 
thousand of that class were annually sold from Virginia; consequently, 
a very large portion of the colored population there is composed of 
the aged, infirm, women and children, and the being freed from the 
necessity of supporting them is really a great relief in the present pov- 
erty of the people — a relief to their former owners." 

Of course, those who wanted Negro labor immediately and were 
pushed on by the current high prices for products, were willing to 
compromise in some respects. 

"The more intelligent people there, those who have landed estates, 
need their labor. Being dependent upon them for labor, they see the 
necessity of employing them, and are disposed to get along with them. 
All of the people, however, are extremely reluctant to grant the Negro 
his civil rights — those privileges that pertain to freedom, the protection 
of life, liberty and property before the laws, the right to testify in the 
courts, etc. They are all very reluctant to concede that; and if it is 
ever done, it will be because they are forced to do it. They are re- 
luctant even to consider and treat the Negro as a free man." 

Lieutenant Sanderson, who was in North Carolina for three years, 
said that as soon as the Southerners came in in full control, they in- 
tended to put in force laws "not allowing a contraband to stay in 
any section over such a length of time without work; if he does, to 


seize him and sell him. In fact, that is done now in the county of 
Gates, North Carolina. The county police, organized under orders 
from headquarters, did enforce that. 

"Mr. Parker told me that he had hired his people for the season: 
that directly after the surrender of General Lee, he called them up 
and told them they were free; that he was better used to them than 
to others, and would prefer hiring them; that he would give them 
board and two suits of clothing to stay with him till the ist day 
of January, 1866, and one Sunday suit at the end of that time; that 
they consented willingly — in fact, preferred to remain with him, etc. 
But from his people I learned that though he did call them up, as 
stated, yet when one of them demurred at the offer, his son James 
flew at him and cuffed and kicked him; that after that they were 
all 'perfectly willing to stay'; they were watched night and day; that 
Bob, one of the men, had been kept chained nights; that they were 
actually afraid to try to get away." 

Sometimes the resentment at the new state of affairs was funny. 
A county judge near Goldsboro, who had never been addressed by 
a Negro unbidden, came to the quarters of Lieutenant Sanderson: 

" 'Lieutenant, what am I to stand from these freed people ? I suppose 
you call them free. What insults am I obliged to suffer? I am in a 
perfect fever.' I told him I saw he was, and asked him what he com- 
plained of? If there was anything wrong I would right it. 'Well,' said 
he, 'one of these infernal niggers came along as I sat on my piazza 
this morning and bowed to me, and said good morning; — one of your 
soldiers!' " 

From Alabama it was reported: 

"The planters hate the Negro, and the latter class distrust the former, 
and while this state of things continues, there cannot be harmonious 
action in developing the resources of the country. Besides, a good 
many men are unwilling yet to believe that the 'peculiar institution' 
of the South has been actually abolished, and still have the lingering 
hope that slavery, though not in name, will yet in some form prac- 
tically exist. And hence the great anxiety to get back into the Union, 
which being accomplished, they will then, as I have heard it expressed, 
'fix the Negro!' . . . 

"It is the simple fact, capable of indefinite proof, that the black man 
does not receive the faintest shadow of justice. I aver that in nine 
cases out of ten within my own observation, where a white man has 
provoked an affray with a black and savagely misused him, the black 
man has been fined for insolent language because he did not receive 
the chastisement in submissive silence, while the white man has gone 
free." 6 


The New York Herald says of Georgia: 

"Springing naturally out of this disordered state of affairs is an 
organization of 'regulators,' so called. Their numbers include many 
ex-Confederate cavaliers of the country, and their mission is to visit 
summary justice upon any offenders against the public peace. It is 
needless to say that their attention is largely directed to maintaining 
quiet and submission among the blacks. The shooting or stringing up 
of some obstreperous 'nigger by the 'regulators' is so common an 
occurrence as to excite little remar\. Nor is the wor\ of proscription 
confined to the freedmen only. The 'regulators' go to the bottom of 
the matter, and strive to make it uncomfortably warm for any new 
settler with demoralizing innovations of wages for 'niggers.' " 7 

A committee of the Florida legislature reported in 1865 that it was 
true that one of the results of the war was the abolition of African 

"But it will hardly be seriously argued that the simple act of emanci- 
pation of itself worked any change in the social, legal or political 
status of such of the African race as were already free. Nor will it be 
insisted, we presume, that the emancipated slave technically denomi- 
nated a 'freedman' occupied any higher position in the scale of rights 
and privileges than did the 'free Negro.' If these inferences be correct, 
then it results as a logical conclusion, that all the arguments going 
to sustain the authority of the General Assembly to discriminate in 
the case of 'free Negroes' equally apply to that of 'freedmen,' or eman- 
cipated slaves. 

"But it is insisted by a certain class of radical theorists that the act 
of emancipation did not stop in its effect in merely severing the rela- 
tion of master and slave, but that it extended further, and so operated 
as to exalt the entire race and placed them upon terms of perfect 
equality with the white man. These fanatics may be very sincere and 
honest in their convictions, but the result of the recent elections in 
Connecticut and Wisconsin shows very conclusively that such is not 
the sentiment of the majority of the so-called Free States." 

Some Southerners saw in emancipation nothing but extermination 
for the Negro race. The Provisional Governor of Florida became 
almost tearful over the impending fate of the Negroes and the guilt 
of the North. 

"This unfortunate class of our population, but recently constituting 
the happiest and best provided for laboring population in the world, 
by no act of theirs or voluntary concurrence of ours; with no prior 
training to prepare them for their new responsibilities, have been 
suddenly deprived of the fostering care and protection of their old 
masters and are now to become, like so many children gamboling 


upon the brink of the yawning precipice, careless of the future and 
intent only on revelling in the present unrestrained enjoyment of the 
newly found bauble of freedom. . . ." 8 

Judge Humphrey of Alabama said: 

"I believe in case of a return to the Union, we would receive politi- 
cal cooperation so as to secure the management of that labor by those 
who were slaves. There is really no difference, in my opinion, whether 
we hold them as absolute slaves or obtain their labor by some other 
method. Of course, we prefer the old method. But that question is 
not now before us!" 

A twelve-year resident of Alabama said: 

"There is a kind of innate feeling, a lingering hope among many 
in the South that slavery will be regalvanized in some shape or other. 
They tried by their laws to make a worse slavery than there was be- 
fore, for the freedman has not now the protection which the master 
from interest gave him before." 9 

"Every day, the press of the South testifies to the outrages that are 
being perpetrated upon unoffending colored people by the state militia. 
These outrages are particularly flagrant in the states of Alabama and 
Mississippi, and are of such character as to demand most imperatively 
the interposition of the national Executive. These men are rapidly 
inaugurating a condition of things — a feeling — among the freedmen 
that will, if not checked, ultimate in insurrection. The freedmen are 
peaceable and inoffensive; yet if the whites continue to make it all 
their lives are worth to go through the country, as free people have 
a right to do, they will goad them to that point at which submission 
and patience cease to be a virtue. 

"I call your attention to this matter after reading and hearing from 
the most authentic sources — officers and others — for weeks, of the 
continuance of the militia robbing the colored people of their property 
— arms — shooting them in the public highways if they refuse to halt 
when so commanded, and lodging them in jail if found from home 
without passes, and ask, as a matter of simple justice to an unoffend- 
ing and downtrodden people that you use your influence to induce 
the President to issue an order or proclamation forbidding the organ- 
ization of state militia." 10 

In Mississippi: 

"In respectful earnestness I must say that if at the end of all the 
blood that has been shed and the treasure expended, the unfortunate 
Negro is to be left in the hands of his infuriated and disappointed 
former owners to legislate and fix his status, God help him, for his 
cup of bitterness will overflow indeed. Was ever such a policy con- 
ceived in the brain of men before?" 


Sumner quotes "an authority of peculiar value" — a gentleman writ- 
ing from Mississippi: 

"I regret to state that under the civil power deemed by all the in- 
habitants of Mississippi to be paramount, the condition of the freed- 
men in many portions of the country has become deplorable and pain- 
ful in the extreme. / must give it as my deliberate opinion that the 
freedmen are today, in the vicinity where I am now writing, worse off 
in most respects than when they were held slaves. If matters are per- 
mitted to continue on as they now seem likely to be, it needs no 
prophet to predict a rising on the part of the colored population, and 
a terrible scene of bloodshed and desolation. Nor can anyone blame 
the Negroes if this proves to be the result. / have heard since my ar- 
rival here, of numberless atrocities that have been perpetrated upon the 
freedmen. It is sufficient to state that the old overseers are in power 
again. . . . The object of the Southerners appears to be to make good 
their often-repeated assertions, to the effect that the Negroes would 
die if they were freed. To make it so, they seem determined to goad 
them to desperation, in order to have an excuse to turn upon and 
annihilate them." 

General Fisk early in 1866 said: 

"I have today received the statement of two very respectable colored 
men who went into northern Mississippi from Nashville and rented 
plantations. Both of them were men of means, and one a reputed son 
of Isham G. Harris, a former Governor of Tennessee. Both were very 
intelligent colored men. They have been driven out and warned not 
to put their feet within the state again. Their written statements and 
affidavits I have, and will cheerfully place them in the hands of the 
committee if they desire it. They are reliable men; I know them both." 

A former Mississippi slaveholder wrote: 

"As a man who has been deprived of a large number of persons he 
once claimed as slaves, I protest against such a course. If it is intended 
to follow up the abolition of slavery by a liberal and enlightened 
policy, by which I mean bestowing upon them the full rights of other 
citizens, then I can give this movement my heart and hand. But if the 
Negro is to be left in a helpless condition, far more miserable than 
that of slavery, I would ask what was the object of taking him from 
those who claimed his services. 

"General Chetlain tells us that while he was in command, for two 
months, of the Jackson District, containing nine counties, there was 
an average of one black man killed every day, and that in moving 
out forty miles on an expedition he found seven Negroes wantonly 
butchered. Colonel Thomas, assistant commissioner of the [Freed- 
men's] bureau for this state, tells us that there is now a daily average 


of two or three black men killed in Mississippi; the sable patriots in 
blue as they return, are the objects of especial spite." 

Governor Sharkey of Mississippi said: 

"My expectation concerning them is that they are destined to ex- 
tinction, beyond all doubt. We must judge of the future by the past. 
I could tell you a great many circumstances to that effect; I am sorry 
I did not come prepared with means to state the percentage of deaths 
among them. It is alarming, appalling, I think they will gradually die 

General Fisk received a letter from a rich planter living in DeSoto 
County, Mississippi. "He had on his plantation a little girl, and wrote 
me a long letter in relation to it, which closed up by saying: 'As to 
recognizing the rights of freedmen to their children, I will say there 
is not one man or woman in all the South who believes they are free, 
but we consider them as stolen property — stolen by the bayonets of 
the damnable United States government. Yours truly, T. Yancey.' 

"There is one thing that must be taken into account, and that is 
there will exist a very strong disposition among the masters to control 
these people and keep them as a subordinate and subjected class. Un- 
doubtedly they intend to do that. I think the tendency to establish a 
system of serfdom is the great danger to be guarded against. I talked 
with a planter in the La Fourche district, near Tebadouville; he said 
he was not in favor of secession; he avowed his hope and expectation 
that slavery would be restored there in some form. I said: 'If we went 
away and left these people now, do you suppose you could reduce them 
to slavery?' He laughed to scorn the idea that they could not. 'What!' 
said I. 'These men who have had arms in their hands?' 'Yes,' he said; 
'we should take the arms away from them, of course.' ' 

There was no inconsiderable number of Southerners who stoutly 
maintained that Negroes were not free. The Planters' Party of Louisi- 
ana in 1864 proposed to revive the Constitution of 1852 with all its 
slavery features. They believed that Lincoln had emancipated the 
slaves in the rebellious parts of the country as a war measure. Slavery 
remained intact within the Federal lines except as to the return of 
fugitives, and might be reinstated everywhere at the close of hostilities; 
or, in any case, compensation might be obtained by loyal citizens 
through the decision of the Supreme Court. 

The situation in Texas was peculiar. During the war, Texan produce 
had been sent to Europe by the way of Mexico, and a steady stream 
of cash came in which made slavery all the more valuable. At the end 
of the war slavery was essentially unimpaired. When the Federal sol- 
diers approached, some of the planters set their Negroes free and some 
Negroes ran away, but most of the Negroes were kept on the planta- 


tions to await Federal action, and there was widespread belief that 
slavery was an institution and would continue in some form. 

The Houston, Texas, Telegraph was of the opinion that emancipa- 
tion was certain to take place but that compulsory labor would replace 
slavery. Since the Negro was to be freed by the Federal Government 
solely with a view to the safety of the Union, his condition would be 
modified only so far as to insure this, but not so far as materially to 
weaken the agricultural resources of the country. Therefore, the Ne- 
groes would be compelled to work under police regulations of a 
stringent character. 

Mr. Sumner reported in 1866 a special slave trade from the South 
to the West Indies and South America. 

"Another big trade is going on; that of running Negroes to Cuba 
and Brazil. They are running through the country dressed in Yankee 
clothes, hiring men, giving them any price they ask, to make turpen- 
tine on the bay, sometimes on the rivers, sometimes to make sugar. 
They get them on the cars. Of course the Negro don't know where 
he is going. They get him to the bay and tell him to go on the steamer 
to go around the coast, and away goes poor Cuffee to slavery again. 
They are just cleaning out this section of the country of the likeliest 
men and women in it. Federal officers are mixed up in it, too." 

So much for the attitude of the owning class, the former slave- 
owners. But the great mass of the Southerners were not slaveholders; 
they were white peasant-farmers, artisans, with a few merchants and 
professional men. Large numbers of these were fed by the Federal 
government and formed a considerable proportion of the fugitives 
after the war. 

General Hatch reported in 1866: "The poorer classes of the white 
people have an intense dislike" toward Negroes in Mississippi. Five- 
sixths of the soldiers in the Confederate Army were not slave-owners, 
and had fought against the competition of Negroes, and for their con- 
tinued slavery. 

"The most discouraging feature was the utter helplessness of the 
white community in the face of the terrible problem. Almost any 
thoughtful traveler could see that the majority of the whites were para- 
sites, idlers and semi-vagabonds. According to Sidney Andrews, 'The 
Negro, as bad as his condition is,' said he, 'seems to me, on the whole, 
to accommodate himself more easily than the whites to the changed 
situation. I should say that the question at issue in the South is not 
'What shall be done with the Negro?' but 'What shall be done with 
the whites?' The blacks manage to live comfortably for the most part 
and help each other; but the whites, accustomed to having all their 
affairs managed by an aristocracy which was then ruined, seemed 


powerless. They chose committees and reported cases of suffering, but 
any organized action on a large scale could not be expected. It was 
hoped that aid for the whites would come from the North, for fearful 
distress from hunger was inevitable." 

General Turner said of the conditions in Virginia: 

"Among the lower classes of the whites there is a spirit of aggres- 
sion against the Negro. . . . And a great many of the Negroes are 
inclined to take the thing in their own hands; they are not disposed 
to be imposed upon by those people, if they can have half a show to 
defend themselves. . . . 

"With the lower classes — I speak now more particularly of the city 
of Richmond — probably the feeling does not exist to such an extent 
in the rural districts — there is an impulsive feeling of aggression — a 
desire to get the Negro out of the way. They do not think of his 
rights; they do not appear to know what it means; only they feel that 
the Negro has something." 

General Fisk spoke of Tennessee: 

"It is a melancholy fact that among the bitterest opponents of the 
Negro in Tennessee are the intensely radical loyalists of the mountain 
district — the men who have been in our armies. . . ." 

"The poorer classes of the white people have an intense dislike to- 
ward them," said General Hatch. He especially emphasized the situa- 
tion in Tennessee and spoke of the aid that was being given the white 
fugitives. He said that the Negro knew that without legal rights he 
was not safe from the poor whites, and that they had not issued to 
the Negroes one-tenth of the rations that they had given the poor 

"The hatred toward the Negro as a freeman is intense among the 
low and brutal, who are the vast majority. Murders, shootings, whip- 
pings, robbing and brutal treatment of every kind are daily inflicted 
upon them, and I am sorry to say in most cases they can get no redress. 
They don't know where to complain or how to seek justice after they 
have been abused and cheated. The habitual deference toward the 
white man makes them fearful of his anger and revenge." 

The Union members of the Tennessee legislature said: 

"That long before the war common laborers had learned to curse 
the Yankees and Abolitionists and to talk about Negro equality and 
his rights in the territories. With all this went a great degree of per- 
sonal violence. Leaving out for the moment the group violence, the 
organized fight against the Negro which was continuous, the personal 
physical opposition was continually in existence." 

A candidate for Congress in Virginia in 1865 said: 

"I am opposed to the Southern states being taxed at all for the re- 


demption of this national debt, either directly or indirectly; and / will 
vote to repeal all laws that have heretofore been passed for that pur- 
pose; and, in doing so, I do not consider that I violate any obligations 
to which the South was a party. We have never plighted our faith for 
the redemption of the war debt. The people will be borne down with 
taxes for years to come; even if the war debt is repudiated, it will be 
the duty of the government to support the maimed and disabled 
soldiers, and this will be a great expense; and if the United States 
Government requires the South to be taxed for the support of Union 
soldiers, we should insist that all disabled soldiers should be main- 
tained by the United States Government without regard to the side 
they had ta\en in the war. 

"The national debt doubtless seems to you beyond the reach of any 
hand. Yet I regard it as very probable that one or two or all of three 
things will be attempted within three years after the Southern mem- 
bers of Congress are admitted to seats — the repudiation of the national 
debt, the assumption of the Confederate debt, or the payment of sev- 
eral hundred million dollars to the South for property destroyed and 
slaves emancipated." 

A leader from South Carolina, James H. Campbell, said: 

"I believe that when our votes are admitted into that Congress, if 
we are tolerably wise, governed by a moderate share of common 
sense, we will have our own way. I am speaking now not to be re- 
ported. We will have our own way yet, if we are true to ourselves. 
We know the past, we know not what is to be our future. Are we not 
in a condition to accept what we cannot help? Are we not in a con- 
dition where it is the part of wisdom to wait and give what we can- 
not avoid giving? I believe as surely as we are a people, so surely, if 
we are guided by wisdom, we will by the beginning of the next presi- 
dential election which is all that is known of the Constitution — for 
when you talk of the Constitution of the United States it means the 
presidential election and the share of the spoils — I believe then we 
may hold the balance of power." 

Thus gradually, the South conceived a picture. It deliberately looked 
backward towards slavery in a day when two Southern poor whites 
were Presidents of the United States. 

Although he was the Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, too, in many 
respects, was looking backward toward the past. Lincoln's solution 
for the Negro problem was colonization. In this respect he went back 
to the early nineteenth century when the American Colonization 
Society was formed, with what proved to be two antagonistic objects: 
The first was the philanthropic object of removing the Negro to 
Africa and starting him on the road to an independent culture in his 


own fatherland. The second and more influential object was to get 
rid of the free Negro in the United States so as to make color caste 
the permanent foundation of American Negro slavery. The contra- 
diction of these two objects was the real cause of the failure of colo- 
nization, since it early incurred the bitter opposition of both Abolition- 
ists and Negro leaders. The result of the movement was the establish- 
ment of Liberia in an inhospitable land and without adequate capital 
and leadership. The survival of that little country to our day is one 
of the miracles of Negro effort, despite all of the propaganda of criti- 
cism that has been leveled against that country. 

When the Negro question became prominent before the war, the 
project of colonization was revived, and Abraham Lincoln believed in 
it "as one means of solving the great race problem involved in the 
existence of slavery in the United States. . . . Without being an en- 
thusiast, Lincoln was a firm believer in colonization." 1X 

In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln said at Peoria, Illinois: 

"If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do 
as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all 
the slaves and send them to Liberia — to their own native land. But a 
moment's reflection would convince me that, whatever of high hope 
(as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run its sudden 
execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they 
would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus ship- 
ping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in 
many times ten days. What then ? Free them all and keep them among 
us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? 
I think that I would not hold one in slavery at any rate, yet the point 
is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? 
Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My 
own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would, we well know 
that those of the great mass of whites will not." 12 

Later, speaking at Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln declared: "That the 
separation of races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation." 

Several prominent Republicans espoused deportation in 1859. F. B. 
Blair of Missouri wrote to Senator Doolittle of Minnesota: 

"I am delighted that you are pressing the colonization scheme in 
your campaign speeches. I touched upon it three or four times in my 
addresses in Minnesota and if I am any judge of effect it is the finest 
theme with which to get at the hearts of the people and [it] can be 
defended with success at all points. ... I made it the culminating 
point and inevitable result of Republican doctrine." 13 

When the general strike of slaves began during the war, and the 
black fugitives began to pour into the Federal lines, Lincoln again 


brought forward his proposal of colonization, not simply for the 
freedmen, but for such free Negroes as should wish to emigrate. He 
suggested an appropriation for acquiring suitable territory and for 
other expenses. 

By an act of April 16, 1862, which abolished slavery in the District 
of Columbia, Congress made an appropriation of $100,000 for volun- 
tary Negro emigrants at an expense of $100 each; and later, July 16, 
an additional appropriation of $500,000 was made at Lincoln's request. 
The President was authorized "to make provision for transportation, 
colonization, and settlement, in some tropical country beyond the 
limits of the United States, of such persons of the African race, made 
free by the provisions of this act, as may be willing to emigrate, hav- 
ing first obtained the consent of the government of said country to 
their protection and settlement within the same, with all the rights 
and privileges of freemen." 14 

By an act of July 17, 1862, the President was authorized to colonize 
Negroes made free by the confiscation acts. Proceeds from confiscated 
property were to replace monies appropriated for colonization. 

Charles Sumner vigorously attacked these plans. He said coloniza- 
tion was unwise: "Because, besides its intrinsic and fatal injustice, you 
will deprive the country of what it most needs, which is labor. Those 
freedmen on the spot are better than mineral wealth. Each is a mine, 
out of which riches can be drawn, provided you let him share the 
product, and through him that general industry will be established 
which is better than anything but virtue, and is, indeed, a form of 

virtue." 15 

In several cases, President Lincoln interviewed delegations on the 
subject. He believed that a good colonization scheme would greatly 
encourage voluntary emancipation in the Border States. He spoke to 
the Border State representatives and said that room in South America 
for Negro colonization could be obtained cheaply. He received in 
August, 1862, a committee of colored men, headed by E. M. Thomas, 
and urged colonization on account of the difference of race. 

"Should the people of your race be colonized and where? Why 
should they leave this country? You and we are different races. We 
have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any 
other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but 
this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. 
Your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, 
while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each 
side. If this is admitted it affords a reason why we should be sepa- 
rated. If we deal with those who are not free at the beginning and 
whose intellects are clouded by slavery, we have very poor material to 


start with. If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would 
move in this matter much might be accomplished." 16 

A bill was introduced into the House in 1862 appropriating $200,- 
000,000 — $20,000,000 to colonize and the rest to purchase 600,000 slaves 
of Unionist owners in Border States. The bill was not passed but the 
committee made an elaborate report on colonization July 16, 1862, 

"The most formidable difficulty which lies in the way of emancipa- 
tion in most if not in all the slave states is the belief which obtains 
especially among those who own no slaves that if the Negroes shall 
become free they must still continue in our midst, and ... in some 
measure be made equal to the Anglo-Saxon race. . . . The belief [in 
the inferiority of the Negro race] ... is indelibly fixed upon the 
public mind. The differences of the races separate them as with a wall 
of fire; there is no instance in history where liberated slaves have lived 
in harmony with their former masters when denied equal rights — but 
the Anglo-Saxon will never give his consent to Negro equality, and 
the recollections of the former relation of master and slave will 
be perpetuated by the changeless color of the Ethiop's skin. Emanci- 
pation therefore without colonization could offer little to the Negro 
race. A revolution of the blacks might result, but only to their un- 
doing. To appreciate and understand this difficulty it is only neces- 
sary for one to observe that in proportion as the legal barriers estab- 
lished by slavery have been removed by emancipation the prejudice 
of caste becomes stronger and public opinion more intolerant to the 
Negro race." 1T 

In his second annual message, December 1, 1862, the President re- 
ferred to communications from colored men who favored emigration, 
and to protests from several South American countries against receiv- 
ing Negroes. He requested further appropriations for colonizing free 
Negroes with their own consent, but showed a deviation from his 
former philosophy: 

"I cannot make it better known than it already is, that I strongly 
favor colonization; and yet I wish to say there is an objection urged 
against free colored persons remaining in the country, which is largely 
imaginary, if not sometimes malicious. It is insisted that their pres- 
ence would injure and displace white labor more by being free than by 
remaining slaves. If they stay in their old places they jostle no white 
laborers; if they leave their old places, they leave them open to white 
laborers. Logically then there is neither more nor less of it. Emancipa- 
tion, even without deportation, would probably enhance the wages of 
white labor and very surely would not reduce them. Reduce the sup- 
ply of black labor by colonizing the black laborer out of the country 


and by precisely so much you increase the demand for and wages of 
white labor." 

Several negotiations were begun with foreign countries that owned 
colonies in the West Indies, and with South American countries. The 
Cabinet discussed the matter. Bates wanted compulsory deportation, 
but the President objected to this. Finally, he settled on two projects: 
one, in Panama, and the other in the West Indies, where an island was 
ceded by Haiti. An adventurer, named Kock, undertook to carry five 
thousand colored emigrants to the island, but the result was a fiasco 
and a large number of the four hundred actually sent died of disease 
and neglect, and were finally brought back to the United States on a 
war vessel. 

As late as April, 1865, President Lincoln said to General Butler: 

"'But what shall we do with the Negroes after they are free?' in- 
quired Lincoln. 'I can hardly believe that the South and North can 
live in peace unless we get rid of the Negroes. Certainly they cannot, 
if we don't get rid of the Negroes whom we have armed and disci- 
plined and who have fought with us, to the amount, I believe, of some 
150,000 men. I believe that it would be better to export them all to 
some fertile country with a good climate, which they could have to 
themselves. You have been a staunch friend of the race from the time 
you first advised me to enlist them at New Orleans. You have had a 
great deal of experience in moving bodies of men by water — your 
movement up the James was a magnificent one. Now we shall have 
no use for our very large navy. What then are our difficulties in send- 
ing the blacks away? . . . 

' 'I wish you would examine the question and give me your views 
upon it and go into the figures as you did before in some degree so as 
to show whether the Negroes can be exported.' Butler replied: 'I will 
go over this matter with all diligence and tell you my conclusions as 
soon as I can.' The second day after that Butler called early in the 
morning and said: 'Mr. President, I have gone very carefully over my 
calculations as to the power of the country to export the Negroes of 
the South and I assure you that, using all your naval vessels and all 
the merchant marine fit to cross the seas with safety, it will be impos- 
sible for you to transport to the nearest place that can be found fit for 
them — and that is the Island of San Domingo, half as fast as Negro 
children will be born here.' " 18 

The Secretary of the Interior in December, 1863, reported that the 
Negroes were no longer willing to leave the United States and that 
they were needed in the army. For these reasons, he thought that they 
should not be forcibly deported. On July 2, 1864, all laws relating to 
Negro colonization were repealed. 


Lincoln was impressed by the loss of capital invested in slaves, but 
curiously never seemed seriously to consider the correlative loss of 
wage and opportunity of slave workers, the tangible results of whose 
exploitation had gone into the planters' pockets for two centuries. 

A. K. McClure says: "Some time in August, 1864, I spent an hour 
or more with him alone at the White House, and I, then, for the first 
time spoke with frankness on the subject of restoring the Insurgent 
States. . . . He startled me by his proposition that he had carefully 
written out in his own hand on a sheet of note paper, proposing to 
pay the South $400,000,000 for the loss of their slaves. He was then a 
candidate for reelection, and grave doubts were entertained, until after 
Sherman's capture of Atlanta and Sheridan's victories in the valley, 
as to the result of the contest between Lincoln and McClellan; and he 
well knew that if public announcement had been made of his willing- 
ness to pay the South $400,000,000 for emancipation it would have de- 
feated him overwhelmingly." 19 

This project of compensation for lost capital invested in slaves was 
permanently dropped and Lincoln had to turn to the question of the 
relation of the seceded states to the Union once the war was ended. 
The situation was absolutely unique. It was impossible to appeal to 
constitutional precedence, for the Constitution never contemplated 
anything like the things that had happened between 1861 and 1865. 

The grave question of the future relation of the seceded states to 
the Union could not be settled by Lincoln's pragmatic procedure. It 
must be visioned as a whole and put into law and logic. Toward this, 
Lincoln was moving slowly and tentatively seeking a formula that 
would work and yet be just to all men of all colors, and consistent 
with the legal fabric of the nation. 

Charles Sumner first laid down a comprehensive formula February 
11, 1862: 

"1. Resolved, That any vote of secession, or other act, by a state 
hostile to the supremacy of the Constitution within its territory, is in- 
operative and void against the Constitution, and, when sustained by 
force, becomes a practical abdication by the State of all rights under 
the Constitution, while the treason it involves works instant forfeiture 
of all functions and powers essential to the continued existence of the 
State as a body politic; so that from such time forward the territory 
falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress, as other territory, and 
the State becomes, according to the language of the law, felo-de-se." ~° 

This plan was too radical for Lincoln, but that spring he proceeded 
to appoint military governors in Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas 
and Louisiana, where the Union Army held parts of the states. During 
the summer, he corresponded with Southern friends in Louisiana, and 


in December, clue to his pressure, two members of Congress were 
elected in Louisiana from New Orleans and its suburbs, which was 
the only part under the control of the Union Army. 

The Confederate legislature which was meeting simultaneously at 
Shreveport declared: 

"(1) Every citizen [Negroes were not citizens] should vote who 
had not forfeited his citizenship by electing to adhere to the govern- 
ment of the United States. 

"(2) Five hundred thousand dollars were voted to pay for slaves 
lost by death or otherwise, while impressed on the public works. 

"(3) Any slave bearing arms against the inhabitants of the state 
or the Confederate States, or who should engage in any revolt or 
rebellion or insurrection should suffer death." 21 

The two Louisiana Congressmen were admitted to Congress with 
some hesitation, and Lincoln was encouraged to make further experi- 
ment along this line. In his message of December 8, 1863, therefore, 
he outlined a general plan of Reconstruction. 

He regarded the states as still existing, even during the war, and that 
the rebellion was a combination of disloyal persons in the states. Re- 
construction was an executive problem which consisted in creating a 
loyal class in the states and supporting that class by military power 
until it organized and operated the state government. The loyal class 
was to swear allegiance to the United States and to the Acts of Con- 
gress unless they were held void or changed, and all persons could 
take this oath unless they were civil officials of the Confederate Gov- 
ernment, or military officers above the rank of Colonel or Lieutenant 
in the navy; or unless they had resigned from Congress or the United 
States Courts, or from army and navy, in order to aid the rebellion; 
or unless they had not treated colored soldiers or the leaders of col- 
ored soldiers as prisoners of war. 

Such a loyal class he was prepared to recognize in Arkansas, Texas, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South 
Carolina and North Carolina, when they formed not less than one- 
tenth of the votes cast in their state at the presidential election of i860. 
Lincoln was careful to say that whether members who went to Con- 
gress from any of these states should be admitted or not rested exclu- 
sively with the Houses of Congress and not with the President. 

Virginia was not included because Lincoln had already recognized 
the government at Alexandria as the true government of Virginia 
during the war, and, therefore, assumed that Virginia needed no Re- 
construction, but was to be treated like Kentucky and Missouri. Of 
course, the support of a government consisting of only one-tenth of 
its voters had to come from the outside; that is, from the Federal 


army. In his accompanying proclamation of the same date, the Presi- 
dent also engaged by this proclamation not to object to any provision 
which might be adopted by such state governments in relation to the 
freed people of the states which should recognize and declare their 
permanent freedom and provide for present condition "as a laboring, 
landless, and homeless class." 

Here emerged a clear feature of the Lincoln plan which has not 
been emphasized. On this matter of the freedom of the Negroes, and 
a real, not a nominal freedom, Abraham Lincoln was adamant. In 
December, 1863, his "message contained an unusually forcible and 
luminous expression of the principles embraced in the proclamation. 
The President referred to the dark and doubtful days which followed 
the announcement of the policy of emancipation and of the employ- 
ment of black soldiers; the gradual justification of those acts by the 
successes which the national arms had since achieved; of the change 
of the public spirit of the Border States in favor of emancipation; the 
enlistment of black soldiers, and their efficient and creditable behavior 
in arms; the absence of any tendency to servile insurrection or to vio- 
lence and cruelty among the Negroes; the sensible improvement in 
the public opinion of Europe and of America. 

"In justification of his requiring, in the oath of amnesty, a submis- 
sion to and support of the anti-slavery laws and proclamations, he 
said: 'Those laws and proclamations were enacted and put forth for 
the purpose of aiding in the suppression of the rebellion. To give them 
their fullest effect, there had to be a pledge for their maintenance. In 
my judgment they have aided and will further aid the cause for which 
they were intended. To now abandon them would be not only to re- 
linquish a lever of power, but would also be a cruel and an astound- 
ing breach of faith.' " 

The reception of Lincoln's message to Congress in December, 1863, 
was enthusiastic: 

"Men acted as though the millennium had come. Chandler was de- 
lighted, Sumner was joyous, apparently forgetting for the moment his 
doctrine of state suicide; while at the other political pole, Dixon and 
Reverdy Johnson said the message was 'highly satisfactory.' Henry Wil- 
son said to the President's secretary: 'He has struck another great blow. 
Tell him for me, God bless him.' The effect was similar in the House 
of Representatives. George S. Boutwell, who represented the extreme 
anti-slavery element of New England, said: 'It is a very able and 
shrewd paper. It has great points of popularity, and it is right.' Owen 
Lovejoy, the leading abolitionist of the West, seemed to see on the 
mountain the feet of one bringing good tidings. 'I shall live,' he said, 
'to see slavery ended in America.' . . . Francis W. Kellogg of Michi- 


gan went shouting about the lobby: 'The President is the only man. 
There is none like him in the world. He sees more widely and more 
clearly than any of us.' Henry T. Blow, the radical member from St. 
Louis (who was six months later denouncing Mr. Lincoln as a traitor 
to freedom) said: 'God bless old Abe! I am one of the Radicals who 
have always believed in him.' Horace Greeley, who was on the floor 
of the House, went so far as to say the message was 'devilish good.' ' 

The causes of this jubilation were, however, dangerously diverse; 
the Abolitionists saw mainly the determination of Lincoln utterly to 
abolish slavery. This had not been clear before. Lincoln had never 
been an Abolitionist; he had never believed in full Negro citizenship; 
he had tried desperately to win the war without Negro soldiers, and 
he had emancipated the slaves only on account of military necessity. 
On the other hand, Lincoln learned; he stood now for abolishing slav- 
ery forever; he gave full credit and praise to Negro soldiers; and he 
was soon to face the problem of Negro citizenship. 

Northern capital and Southern sympathizers in the North hailed 
the message because it carried no note of revenge or punishment, and 
contemplated speedy restoration of political independence in the South 
and normal industry. 

Now came the very pertinent question as to just how this freedom 
of Negroes was to be enforced and maintained. Lincoln, working at 
this problem in Louisiana, in his correspondence with Banks, who was 
now in command, and Shepley, Military Governor, encouraged prepa-" 
rations for a reconstructed state government. Banks arranged to elect 
state officials and accepted as the basis of voting the provisions of the 
Louisiana Constitution of 1852 which, of course, allowed no Negroes 
to vote. v 

Accordingly, he declared the electors to be: 

"Every free white male, 21 years of age, who had been resident in 
the state 12 months, and in the parish 6 months, who shall be a citizen 
of the United States and shall have taken the oath prescribed by the 
President in December, 1863." The total vote on February 22, 1864, 
was 11,355, °f which Hahn received 6,171, Fellows, 2,959, an d Flanders, 
2,225, g lvm g a majority to Hahn for Governor. 23 

If this experiment in Reconstruction had been attempted anywhere 
but in Louisiana, it is possible that the whole question of Negro suf- 
frage would not have been raised then or perhaps for many years 
after. But by peculiar fate, it happened that a problem of Negro vot- 
ing was immediately raised in Louisiana by the election of 1864, which 
simply could not be ignored. Usually, the argument concerning Negro 
suffrage after the war was met by an expression of astonishment that 
anybody could for a moment consider the admission of ignorant, brut- 


ish field hands to the ballot-box in the South. But that was not the 
problem which faced General Banks and Abraham Lincoln in 1864. 

In Louisiana, where the question of Negro suffrage first arose as a 
problem, there existed a group of free Negroes. Their fathers had been 
free when Louisiana was annexed to the United States. Their numbers 
had increased from 7,585 in 1810 to 25,505 in 1840, and then declined 
to 18,647 m i860, by emigration and by passing over into the white 
race on the part of their octoroon and lighter members. 

Negroes in Louisiana in i860 owned fifteen million dollars' worth of 
property. The Ricaud family alone in 1859 owned 4,000 acres of 
land and 350 slaves, at a total value of $250,000. The development 
of this mulatto group was extraordinary. Beginning under the French 
and Spanish, they played a remarkable part in the history of the state. 
The Spanish government while in possession of Louisiana had raised 
among them two companies of militia, "composed of all the mechan- 
ics which the city possessed." 

This group of Negroes took part in the Battle of New Orleans in 
1 8 15, and was extravagantly praised by Andrew Jackson. They were 
the cause of an extraordinary blossoming of artistic life, which made 
New Orleans in the early part of the nineteenth century the most 
picturesque city of America. Negro musicians and artists arose. Eugene 
Warburg, a colored man, went from New Orleans to become a sculp- 
tor in France. Dubuclet became a musician in France, and the Seven 
"Lamberts taught and composed in North and South America and 
Europe. Sidney was decorated for his work by the King of Portugal, 
and Edmund Dede became a director of a leading orchestra in France. 

Alexandre Pickhil was a painter, who died between 1840 and 1850. 
Joseph Abeillard was an architect and planned many New Orleans 
buildings before the war. Norbert Rillieux invented the vacuum-pan 
used in producing sugar; as an engineer and contractor Rillieux had 
no rivals in Louisiana. The general periodicals in New Orleans praised 
him but seldom alluded to his Negro descent. 

In 1 843-1 845, New Orleans colored folk issued a magazine and seven- 
teen of the young mulatto poets collected an anthology called Les 
Cenelles, which they published as a small volume. They were all men 
educated either in France, or in private schools in Louisiana, and were 
in contact with some of the best writers and literature of the day. It is 
doubtful if anywhere else in the United States a literary group of equal 
culture could have been found at the time. In 1850, four-fifths of the 
free Negroes living in New Orleans could read and write, and they 
had over a thousand children in school. Among them were carpenters, 
tailors, shoemakers and printers, besides teachers, planters and profes- 
sional men. 


James Derham, a colored man in New Orleans in 1800, had a medi- 
cal practice of $3,000 a year. He was especially commended by Dr. 
Benjamin Rush. Below the professional level were numbers of Ne- 
groes of ability. There was the celebrated sorceress, Marie Laveau, 
who, about 1835, exercised an extraordinary influence throughout the 
city. In 1850, Louisiana had a colored architect, 6 physicians, 4 en- 
gineers, and over 20 teachers in schools and in music. As early as 1803, 
free colored men were admitted to the police force to patrol outside 
the city limits, to catch runaway slaves and stop looting and crime. 

There was systematic common law marriage between whites and 
mulattoes. The connections formed with the quadroons and octoroons 
were often permanent enough for the rearing of large families, some 
of whom obtained their freedom through the affection of their father- 
master, and received the education he would have bestowed upon 
legitimate offspring. 

When Butler came to New Orleans, it was one of these colored Cre- 
oles who entertained him at a banquet of seven courses served on 

"The secret, darling desire of this class is to rank as human beings 
in their native city; or, as the giver of the grand banquet expressed 
it, 'No matter where I fight; I only wish to spend what I have, and 
fight as long as I can, if only my boy may stand in the street equal 
to a white boy when the war is over.' " 24 

"The best blood of the South flowed in their veins, and a great deal 
of it; for 'the darkest of them,' said General Butler, 'were about of the 
complexion of the late Mr. Webster.' " 25 

This was the history of the free Negroes of New Orleans, and to 
this must be added their labor, cooperation and enlistment as soldiers. 
Could the government of the United States allow Confederate soldiers 
to vote simply because they were white, and exclude Union soldiers 
simply because they were yellow or black? Even if the Negroes had 
been quiescent and willing to be ignored at this critical time, their 
rights were indisputable. But they were not quiet. 

The Negroes themselves made strong statements. In November, 
1863, the free men of color held a meeting in New Orleans and drew 
up an appeal to Governor Shepley "asking to be allowed to register 
and vote." They reviewed their services under Jackson, who called 
them "my fellow citizens" just after the battle of New Orleans, and 
they declared their present loyalty to the Union. "For forty-nine years," 
the petition ran, "they have never ceased to be peaceable citizens, pay- 
ing their taxes on assessments of more than nine million dollars." 

But, however strongly this petition appealed to Shepley, it was 
manifestly impossible to grant it at this time. The decisive reason was 


that if Negroes had been allowed to vote in this election they would 
have formed the majority of the voting population of Union Louisi- 

So far as is known, Shepley returned no answer to the appeal; for 
in the following January, the colored Union Radical Association sent 
a committee to call on Shepley requesting him to recognize the 
"rights" of the free colored population to the franchise. Shepley, un- 
willing and unable to assume such responsibility, referred the com- 
mittee to General Banks, but the latter gave them no definite reply. 
He explained later: 

"I thought it unwise to give them the suffrage, as it would have 
created a Negro constituency. The whites might give suffrage to the 
Negroes, but if the Negroes gave suffrage to the whites, it would re- 
sult in the Negro losing it. My idea was to get a decision from Judge 
Durell declaring a man with a major part of white blood should pos- 
sess all the rights of a white man; but I had a great deal to do, and a 
few men who wanted to break the bundle of sticks without loosening 
the band defeated it." 26 

Accordingly, the colored committee sent P. M. Tourne to Washing- 
ton to advocate their claims before the President. The President sent a 
man named McKee to New Orleans to study conditions among the 
colored people. Lincoln was impressed but characteristically reticent 
and slow in action. 

General Banks next issued a call for a constitutional convention to 
be held March 28, 1864, to amend the Constitution of 1852. Contrary 
to this Constitution, he based representation in the new government 
on the white population alone, so as to reduce the power of the great 
landholders; and Negroes were not allowed to vote. The total vote for 
this convention was only 6,400. 

When asked to direct the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 
1864, Lincoln refused and wrote: "While I very well know what I 
would be glad for Louisiana to do, it is quite a difficult thing for me 
to assume direction in the matter. I would be glad for her to make a 
new Constitution recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation, and 
adopting emancipation in those parts of the state to which the Procla- 
mation does not apply. And while she is at it, I think it would not 
be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system by which the 
two races could gradually lift themselves out of their old relation to 
each other, and both come out better prepared for the new. Education 
for young blacks should be included in the plan. After all, the power 
or element of 'contract' may be sufficient for this probationary period, 
and by its simplicity and flexibility be better. 

"As an anti-slavery man, I have a motive to desire emancipation 


which pro-slavery men do not have; but even they have strong enough 
reasons to thus place themselves again under the shield of the Union, 
and to thus perpetually hedge against the recurrence of the scenes 
through which we are now passing. . . . 

"For my own part, I think I shall not, in any event, retract the 
Emancipation Proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery 
any person who is free by the terms of that Proclamation, or by any 
of the acts of Congress. If Louisiana shall send members to Congress, 
their admission will depend, as you know, upon the respective Houses 
and not upon the President." 2T 

Here again was the same insistence that Negro freedom must be 
real and guaranteed and again the puzzling question, how could this 
be accomplished? Abraham Lincoln took a forward step and by his 
letter of March 13 to the newly elected Governor Hahn, he made the 
first tentative suggestion for a Negro suffrage in the South. Evidently, 
the persistent agitation of colored New Orleans inspired this: 

"Executive Mansion, 

« TT , , TT "Washington, March 13, 1864. 

Hon. Michael Hahn: 6 ' :» t 

"My dear Sir: In congratulating you on having fixed your name in 
history as the first Free State Governor of Louisiana, now you are 
about to have a convention, which, among other things, will probably 
define the elective franchise, I barely suggest, for your private con- 
sideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in, as, 
for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought 
gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help in some trying time 
in the future to keep the jewel of Liberty in the family of freedom. 
But this is only suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone. 

"Truly yours, 
"A. Lincoln." 28 

This was a characteristic Lincoln gesture. He did not demand or 
order; he suggested, and incidentally adduced logical arguments of 
tremendous strength. This letter of Lincoln's, says Blaine, was "of 
deep and almost prophetic significance. It was perhaps the earliest 
proposition from any authentic source to endow the Negro with the 
right of suffrage." 29 

Thus, with his unflinching honesty of logic, Lincoln faced the prob- 
lem of Negro voters. It was unthinkable that Negroes who had fought 
to preserve the Union or that Negroes of education and property 
should be excluded from the right to vote by the very nation whose 
life they had saved. On the other hand, unless a state saw this clearly, 
he did not see how it could be forced to see it. He made the sugges- 


tion, therefore, quietly and secretly, and he knew that he had a slowly 
growing public opinion in the North behind him. 

"To keep the jewel of Liberty in the family of freedom," was a 
splendid and pregnant phrase and it had back of it unassailable facts. 

The delegates met April 6, 1864, and sat for 78 days. The conven- 
tion was divided on the question of compensation for loyal slave- 
holders, the education of the freedmen at the expense of the state, and 
Negro suffrage. Slavery was abolished by a vote of 72-13. An appeal 
was made to Congress for compensation for slaves; and on May 10, 
the convention adopted a resolution declaring that the legislature 
should never pass any act authorizing free Negroes to vote. Banks and 
Hahn, however, brought pressure to bear and some forty votes were 
changed, so that June 23, Gorlinsky moved that "The legislature shall 
have power to pass laws extending the right of suffrage to such per- 
sons, citizens of the United States, as by military service, by taxation 
to support the government, or by intellectual fitness, may be deemed 
entitled thereto." Many members did not understand this, but Sullivan 
of New Orleans denounced it as "A nigger resolution," and moved to 
lay it on the table. Without discussion, it was adopted 48-32. 

Before the assembling of the convention, Banks on his own respon- 
sibility had appointed a Board of Education, of three members, for 
the freedmen's schools and given it power to establish schools in every 
school district, and to levy a tax to support the system. This order was 
discussed in the convention, and finally approved by a vote of 72-9. 
Also, by a vote of 53-27, general taxation for the support of free public 
schools for all was approved. The convention discussed a proposition 
of recognizing all persons as white who had less than one-fourth of 
Negro blood. But this involved too intricate inquiries into ancestry, a 
matter which often in Louisiana led to duels and murder. It was, 
therefore, voted down. 

The expense of this white convention amounted to more than 
$1,000 a day and included liquor, cigars, carriage hire, stationery and 
furniture. It illustrated the extravagant habits of the time, and was 
quite as bad as any similar waste in South Carolina when Negroes 
were part of the legislature. The New Orleans Times described some 
of the proceedings of the convention as "sickening and disgusting" 
and said that the president was "drunk and a damned fool," and that 
"pandemonium" had reigned. 30 

The Constitution was finally adopted, 67-16, and the convention ad- 
journed in August with a provision that it could be reconvoked by 
the president for further amending the Constitution. The Constitution 
was adopted by a vote of 6,836 to 1,566. 

On September 5, 1864, a legislature was elected according to the 


new Constitution. There were 9,838 votes cast, and it was alleged that 
many colored persons were allowed to register and vote. The new 
legislature met October 3, 1864. This legislature is said by some au- 
thorities to have refused by a large majority to grant the suffrage to 
the Negro. Ficklin, on the other hand, says that no final vote was 
actually taken. Certainly the legislature was against Negro suffrage. 
And when a petition was introduced from five thousand Negroes, 
"many if not the majority" of whom had been in the Federal army, 
asking for the suffrage, no action was taken. One member, apparently 
expressing the general sentiment, said: "It will be time enough to 
grant this petition when all the other free states grant it and set us 
the example. When this state grants it, I shall go to China." 31 

Governor Hahn made no suggestion, and when he resigned from 
office, said that universal suffrage would be granted "whenever it is 
deemed wise and timely. Louisiana has already done more than three- 
fourths of the Northern states." 

The Legislature refused to permit marriages between blacks and 
whites, and there was one attempt to refer the question of Negro 
suffrage to the people. The Thirteenth Amendment was adopted and 
United States Senators were elected, including Governor Hahn for the 
term beginning in 1865. 

Meantime, the whole problem of Reconstruction in Louisiana came 
up in Congress and met the opposition represented by the Wade- 
Davis Bill. 

In Arkansas, in a similar way, by white suffrage, an anti-slavery 
Constitution was adopted, and Senators and Representatives elected 
in the spring of 1864. 

Yet, after all, this was general and preliminary, and certain details 
must be settled before Representatives and Senators from these states 
could be received in Congress; especially the question loomed as to 
how far Reconstruction was going to be an automatic executive func- 
tion and how far a matter of Congressional supervision. 

Congress, thereupon, decided to lay down a fundamental plan. The 
part of the President's message on Reconstruction was referred in the 
House to a select committee, of which Henry Winter Davis was 
chairman. The result was a congressional scheme of Reconstruction. 

The Wade-Davis Bill, passed July 4, 1864, provided that the eleven 
states which had seceded were to be treated as rebellious communi- 
ties, over each of which the President would appoint a Provisional 
Governor. This Governor should exercise all powers of government 
until the state was recognized by Congress as restored. Whenever the 
Governor regarded the rebellion in his state as suppressed, he was to 
direct the United States Marshal to enroll all resident white male 


citizens, and give them an opportunity to swear allegiance to the 
United States. When a majority of these citizens had taken the oath, 
they could elect delegates to a convention and the convention would 
establish a state government. Persons who had held any office under 
the Confederate government could not vote for delegates, or be elected 
as delegates to the convention. The Convention was to adopt a state 
constitution which must abolish slavery, repudiate Confederate and 
state debts incurred by the Confederates, and disqualify Confederate 
officials from voting, or being elected Governor or a member of the 
Legislature. When this Constitution was ratified by a majority of the 
voters, the President, with the consent of Congress, would proclaim 
the state government as established. After that, Representatives, Sen- 
ators, and presidential electors could be chosen. The bill also abol- 
ished slavery in the rebellious states during the process of Reconstruc- 

Thus Congress followed Charles Sumner's "State Suicide" theory 
and formulated Reconstruction measures which regarded the seceding 
states as territories and administered them as such by civil government 
until they were re-admitted. 

This bill did not differ radically from the President's plan. It was 
quite as liberal to the Confederates and wiser in requiring a majority 
of voters, instead of only one-tenth, for Reconstruction. It was more 
methodical and complete because Lincoln had been leaving the matter 
vague until he could sense more clearly the possibilities. 

Both the Wade-Davis plan and the Lincoln plan excluded the Negro 
from the right of suffrage. In the House there was a motion to strike 
out the word "white," but this was cut off by the previous question. 
Boutwell regretted, May 4, that this limitation of the right to vote 
seemed required by the present judgment of the House and of the 
country. When the bill came to the Senate July 1, Wade, as Chairman, 
reported it to the Committee with an amendment striking out the 
word "white." This amendment received only five votes, including 
that of Charles Sumner. Sumner, however, finally voted for the bill 
because of its provisions against slavery. He had already introduced, 
May 27, 1864, another resolution anticipating the Committee of Fifteen 
in the 39th Congress, and declaring that no representatives from Con- 
federate states should be admitted without a vote of both Houses. Lin- 
coln, however, became more and more obdurate. He wrote: "Some 
single mind must be master," and he wished strongly to carry through 
Reconstruction without too much interference. 

When the Wade-Davis Bill came to the President July 4, 1864, 
he laid it aside and refused to sign it, explaining his position 
July 8, 1864, in a proclamation: "While I am — as I was in December 


last, when by proclamation I propounded a plan of restoration — un- 
prepared by formal approval of this bill to be inflexibly committed to 
any single plan of restoration; and while I am also unprepared to de- 
clare that the free State constitutions and governments, already 
adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana, shall be set aside 
and held for naught, thereby repealing and discouraging the loyal 
citizens who have set up the same as to further effort, or to declare a 
constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in states; but 
am at the same time sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitu- 
tional amendment abolishing slavery throughout the nation may be 
adopted, nevertheless, I am fully satisfied with the system for restora- 
tion contained in the bill as one very proper plan for the loyal people 
of any state choosing to adopt it; and I am, and at all times shall 
be, prepared to give the executive aid and assistance to any such peo- 
ple, so soon as military resistance to the United States shall have been 
suppressed in any such state, and the people thereof shall have suffi- 
ciently returned to their obedience to the Constitution and the laws 
of the United States, in which cases military governors will be ap- 
pointed, with directions to proceed according to the bill." 

Senator Wade and Representative Davis took their contentions to 
the country in the summer of 1864. 

"We have read without surprise, but not without indignation, the 
proclamation of the President of the 8th of July, 1864. The supporters 
of the Administration are responsible to the country for its conduct; 
and it is their right and duty to check the encroachments of the Execu- 
tive on the authority of Congress, and to require it to confine itself to 
its proper sphere." 

They denounced Lincoln's Reconstruction plan and emphasized the 
distinction between Executive and Legislative power in Reconstruction. 
Despite the manifesto and opposition on other grounds, Lincoln was 
reelected; but the issue remained to be fought out between Congress 
and Johnson. 

Again in his message of December, 1864, Lincoln returned even 
more emphatically to the matter of the freedom of the slaves. One 
cannot be in much doubt as to what Abraham Lincoln's reaction 
would have been to the black codes of South Carolina and Mississippi. 
Certainly no state with such laws concerning the black laborer would 
have been admitted to the Union with Abraham Lincoln's consent: 

"While I remain in my present position I shall not 'attempt to re- 
tract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation. Nor shall I return to 
slavery any person who is free by the terms of that Proclamation, or 
by any of the Acts of Congress. // the people should, by whatever mode 


or means, ma\e it an Executive duty to reenslave such per sons, another, 
and not I, must be their instrument to perform it." 32 

The Trumbull Resolution of February 18, 1865, recognizing the 
restored Louisiana government, revealed a disposition in the Senate to 
yield to Lincoln. But the rising Abolition-democracy protested. Wen- 
dell Phillips spoke in Faneuil Hall. 

"Gentlemen, you know very well that this nation called 4,000,000 
of Negroes into citizenship to save itself. (Applause.) It never called 
them for their own sakes. It called them to save itself. (Cries of 'Hear, 
Hear.') And today this resolution offered in Faneuil Hall would take 
from the President of such a nation the power to protect the millions 
you have just lifted into danger. (Cries of 'Played out,' 'Sit down,' etc.) 
You won't let him protect them. (Cries of 'No.') What more con- 
temptible object than a nation which for its own selfish purpose sum- 
mons four millions of Negroes to such a position of peril, and then 
leaves them defenseless." 

In the Senate, Sumner was adamant in his demand that all men, 
irrespective of color, should be equal as citizens in the reconstructed 
states. He believed that a first false step in this matter would be fatal. 
The debate began February 23, 1865, and Sumner fought every step. 
He moved a substitute which received only eight votes. He tried to 
displace the resolution, and filibustered. When asked to give up, he 
replied, "That is not my habit." 

Sumner sent in a second substitute declaring that the cause of human 
rights and of the Union needed the ballots as well as the muskets of 
colored men. He offered another amendment imposing equal suffrage 
as the fundamental condition for the admission of the seceded states. 
A night session was called which lasted until nearly Sunday morning. 
Sumner was rebuked for his arrogance and assumed superiority and 
the Senate finally adjourned, half an hour before midnight. 

Only five days of the session remained. Wade now entered the de- 
bate and denounced the Louisiana government as a mockery and 
compared it to the Lecompton Constitution of Kansas. Sumner again 
bitterly arraigned the proposed Louisiana state government as "a mere 
seven months' abortion, begotten by the bayonet, in criminal conjunc- 
tion with the spirit of caste, and born before its time, rickety, un- 
formed, unfinished, whose continued existence will be a burden, a 
reproach, and a wrong." 33 

The bill finally failed. It was Sumner's greatest parliamentary con- 
test and with his triumph, the cause of Negro suffrage was won. 
Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Parker Pillsbury and others 
wrote to congratulate Sumner. Douglass said: 

"The friends of freedom all over the country have looked to you 


and confided in you, of all men in the United States Senate, during 
all this terrible war. They will look to you all the more now that 
peace dawns, and the final settlement of our national troubles is at 
hand. God grant you strength equal to your day and your duties, is 
my prayer and that of millions!" 

Ashley's Reconstruction bill came before the House of Representa- 
tives January 16, February 21, and February 22, 1865. Each draft con- 
fined sulTrage to white male citizens, except one, in which colored sol- 
diers were admitted to the suffrage. Ashley opposed this discrimina- 
tion, but his committee overruled him. 

In his last public speech, April 11, 1865, Lincoln returned to the 
subject of Reconstruction. "The new Constitution of Louisiana, de- 
claring Emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the proc- 
lamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprentice- 
ship for freed people, and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, 
about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to 
Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The 
message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the 
plan, written and verbal, and not a single objection to it from any 
professed emancipationist came to my knowledge until after the news 
reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move 
in accordance with it. From about July, 1862, I had corresponded with 
different persons supposed to be interested [in] seeking a reconstruc- 
tion of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, 
with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, General Banks 
wrote me that he was confident that the people, with his military co- 
operation, would reconstruct substantially on that plan. I wrote to him 
and some of them to try it. They tried it, and the result is known. 
Such only has been my agency in setting up the Louisiana govern- 
ment. . . . 

"We all agree that the seceded States, so-called, are out of their 
proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of 
the Government, civil and military, in regard to those States, is to 
again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe that it is 
not only possible, but in fact easier, to do this without deciding or 
even considering whether these States have ever been out of the Union, 
than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly 
immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in 
doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations be- 
tween these States and the Union, and each forever after innocently 
indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the 
States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assist- 
ance, they never having been out of it. The amount of constituency, so 


to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be 
more satisfactory to all if it contained 50,000, or 30,000, or even 20,000, 
instead of only about 12,000, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some 
that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would 
myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and 
on those who serve our cause as soldiers. 

"Still, the question is not whether the Louisiana government, as it 
stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, will it be wiser 
to take it as it is and help to improve it, or to reject and disperse it? 
Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the 
Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State govern- 
ment? Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of 
Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed the rightful 
political power of the state, held elections, organized a State govern- 
ment, adopted a free State constitution, giving the benefit of public 
schools equally to black and white, and empowered the Legislature 
to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legisla- 
ture has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment, recently 
passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These 
twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union and to 
perpetual freedom in the State — committed to the very things, and 
nearly all the things, the nation wants — and they ask the nation's 
recognition and its assistance to make good their committal. 

"Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize 
and disperse them. We, in effect, say to the white man: You are worth- 
less or worse; we will neither help you, nor be helped by you. To the 
blacks we say: This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold 
to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of 
gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and un- 
defined when, where, and how. If this course, discouraging and para- 
lyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into 
proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been unable 
to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize and sustain the new 
government of Louisiana, the converse of all this is made true. We 
encourage the hearts and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to 
adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight 
for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The 
colored man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigi- 
lance and energy and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires 
the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already 
advanced steps towards it than by running backward over them? 
Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it 


should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by 
hatching the egg than by smashing it." 34 

The tragic death of Lincoln has given currency to the theory that 
the Lincoln policy of Reconstruction would have been far better and 
more successful than the policy afterward pursued. If it is meant by 
this that Lincoln would have more carefully followed public opinion 
and worked to adjust differences, this is true. But Abraham Lincoln 
himself could not have settled the question of Emancipation, Negro 
citizenship and the vote, without tremendous difficulty. 

First of all he was bitterly hated by the overwhelming mass of 
Southerners. Mark Pomeroy, a Northern Copperhead, voiced the ex- 
treme Southern opinion when he wrote: 

"It is you Republicans who set up at the head of the nation a hide- 
ous clown . . . who became a shameless tyrant, a tyrant justly felled 
by an avenging hand, and who now rots in his tomb while his poison- 
ous soul is consumed by the eternal flames of hell." 3o 

Even conservative Southern papers continually referred to Lincoln 
as a "gorilla" or a "clown." And when we consider the fact that Lin- 
coln was determined upon real freedom for the Negro, upon his edu- 
cation, and at least a restricted right to vote, it is difficult to see how 
the South could have been brought to agreement with him. 

In the South there was absence of any leadership corresponding in 
breadth and courage to that of Abraham Lincoln. Here comes the 
penalty which a land pays when it stifles free speech and free discus- 
sion and turns itself over entirely to propaganda. It does not make any 
difference if at the time the things advocated are absolutely right, the 
nation, nevertheless, becomes morally emasculated and mentally hog- 
tied, and cannot evolve that healthy difference of opinion which leads 
to the discovery of truth under changing conditions. 

Suppose, for instance, there had been in the South in 1863 a small 
but determined and clear-thinking group of men who said: "The 
Negro is free and to make his freedom real, he must have land and 
education. He must be guided in his work and development but 
guided toward freedom and the right to vote. Such complete freedom 
and the bestowal of suffrage must be a matter of some years, but at 
present we do not propose to take advantage of this and retain politi- 
cal power based on the non-voting parts of our population. We, there- 
fore, accept the constitutional amendment against slavery; we accept 
any other amendment which will base representation on voting, or 
other proposals which will equalize the voting power of North and 
South. We admit the right of the government to exercise a judicious 
guardianship over the slaves so long as we have reasonable voice in 
this guardianship, and that the interests of the employer as well as 


the employee shall be kept in mind. And in anticipation of this de- 
velopment, we propose to pass a reasonable code of laws recognizing 
the new status of the Negro." 

If there had been in the white South at this time far-seeing lead- 
ership or even some common sense, the subsequent history of Re- 
construction and of the Negro in the United States would have 
been profoundly changed. Suppose a single state like Louisiana had 
allowed the Negro to vote, with a high property qualification, or the 
ability to read and write, or service in the army, or all these? Charles 
Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens would not have been wholly satisfied, 
but certainly their demands would have been greatly modified. Both 
of them were perfectly willing to wait for Negro suffrage until the 
Negro had education and had begun his economic advance. But they 
did insist that he must have the chance to advance. 

There cannot be the slightest doubt that such a program would 
have gathered enough support in the North to have made the history 
of Reconstruction not easy and without difficulty, but far less difficult 
than it proved to be. There were in the South in 1865 men who saw 
this truth plainly and said so. But true effective leadership was denied 
them; just as before the war public opinion in the South was ham- 
mered into idolatrous worship of slavery, so after the war, even more 
bitterly and cruelly, public opinion demanded a new unyielding con- 

Here was a land of poignant beauty, streaked with hate and blood 
and shame, where God was worshiped wildly, where human beings 
were bought and sold, and where even in the twentieth century men 
are burned alive. The situation here in 1865 was fatal, and fatal be- 
cause of the attitude of men's minds rather than because of material 
loss and disorganization. The human mind, its will and emotions, 
congealed to one set pattern, until here were people who knew they 
knew one thing above all others, just as certainly as they knew that 
the sun rose and set; and that was, that a Negro would not work with- 
out compulsion, and that slavery was his natural condition. If by force 
and law the Negro was free, his only chance to remain free was trans- 
portation immediately to Africa or some outlying district of the world, 
where he would soon die of starvation or disease. Such colonization 
was impracticable, and Southern slavery, as it existed before the war, 
was the best possible system for the Negro; and this the vast majority 
of Southerners were forced to believe as firmly in 1865 as they did in 

The whole proof of what the South proposed to do to the emanci- 
pated Negro, unless restrained by the nation, was shown in the Black 
Codes passed after Johnson's accession, but representing the logical 
result of attitudes of mind existing when Lincoln still lived. Some of 


these were passed and enforced. Some were passed and afterward re- 
pealed or modified when the reaction of the North was realized. In 
other cases, as for instance, in Louisiana, it is not clear just which laws 
were retained and which were repealed. In Alabama, the Governor 
induced the legislature not to enact some parts of the proposed code 
which they overwhelmingly favored. 

The original codes favored by the Southern legislatures were an 
astonishing affront to emancipation and dealt with vagrancy, appren- 
ticeship, labor contracts, migration, civil and legal rights. In all cases, 
there was plain and indisputable attempt on the part of the Southern 
states to make Negroes slaves in everything but name. They were 
given certain civil rights: the right to hold property, to sue and be 
sued. The family relations for the first time were legally recognized. 
Negroes were no longer real estate. 

Yet, in the face of this, the Black Codes were deliberately designed 
to take advantage of every misfortune of the Negro. Negroes were 
liable to a slave trade under the guise of vagrancy and apprenticeship 
laws; to make the best labor contracts, Negroes must leave the old 
plantations and seek better terms; but if caught wandering in search 
of work, and thus unemployed and without a home, this was vagrancy, 
and the victim could be whipped and sold into slavery. In the turmoil 
of war, children were separated from parents, or parents unable to 
support them properly. These children could be sold into slavery, and 
"the former owner of said minors shall have the preference." Negroes 
could come into court as witnesses only in cases in which Negroes 
were involved. And even then, they must make their appeal to a jury 
and judge who would believe the word of any white man in prefer- 
ence to that of any Negro on pain of losing office and caste. 

The Negro's access to the land was hindered and limited; his right 
to work was curtailed; his right of self-defense was taken away, when 
his right to bear arms was stopped; and his employment was virtually 
reduced to contract labor with penal servitude as a punishment for 
leaving his job. And in all cases, the judges of the Negro's guilt or 
innocence, rights and obligations were men who believed firmly, for 
the most part, that he had "no rights which a white man was bound to 

Making every allowance for the excitement and turmoil of war, and 
the mentality of a defeated people, the Black Codes were infamous 
pieces of legislation. 

Let us examine these codes in detail. 36 They covered, naturally, a 
wide range of subjects. First, there was the question of allowing Ne- 
groes to come into the state. In South Carolina the constitution of 
1865 permitted the Legislature to regulate immigration, and the con- 


sequent law declared "that no person of color shall migrate into and 
reside in this State, unless, within twenty days after his arrival within 
the same, he shall enter into a bond, with two freeholders as sureties 
... in a penalty of one thousand dollars, conditioned for his good 
behavior, and for his support." 

Especially in the matter of work was the Negro narrowly restricted. 
In South Carolina, he must be especially licensed if he was to follow 
on his own account any employment, except that of farmer or servant. 
Those licensed must not only prove their fitness, but pay an annual 
tax ranging from $io-$ioo. Under no circumstances could they manu- 
facture or sell liquor. Licenses for work were to be granted by a judge 
and were revokable on complaint. The penalty was a fine double the 
amount of the license, one-half of which went to the informer. 

Mississippi provided that "every freedman, free Negro, and mulatto 
shall on the second Monday of January, one thousand eight hundred 
and sixty-six, and annually thereafter, have a lawful home or employ- 
ment, and shall have written evidence thereof . . . from the Mayor 
... or from a member of the board of police . . . which licenses 
may be revoked for cause at any time by the authority granting the 

Detailed regulation of labor was provided for in nearly all these 

Louisiana passed an elaborate law in 1865, to "regulate labor con- 
tracts for agricultural pursuits." Later, it was denied that this legis- 
lation was actually enacted; but the law was published at the time 
and the constitutional convention of 1868 certainly regarded this statute 
as law, for they formally repealed it. The law required all agricultural 
laborers to make labor contracts for the next year within the first ten 
days of January, the contracts to be in writing, to be with heads of 
families, to embrace the labor of all the members, and to be "binding 
on all minors thereof." Each laborer, after choosing his employer, 
"shall not be allowed to leave his place of employment until the fulfill- 
ment of his contract, unless by consent of his employer, or on account 
of harsh treatment, or breach of contract on the part of the employer; 
and if they do so leave, without cause or permission, they shall forfeit 
all wages earned to the time of abandonment. . . . 

"In case of sickness of the laborer, wages for the time lost shall be 
deducted, and where the sickness is feigned for purposes of idleness, 
. . . and also should refusal to work be continued beyond three days, 
the offender shall be reported to a justice of the peace, and shall be 
forced to labor on roads, levees, and other public works, without pay, 
until the offender consents to return to his labor. . . . 

"When in health, the laborer shall work ten hours during the day 


in summer, and nine hours during the day in winter, unless otherwise 
stipulated in the labor contract; he shall obey all proper orders of his 
employer or his agent; take proper care of his work mules, horses, 
oxen, stock; also of all agricultural implements; and employers shall 
have the right to make a reasonable deduction from the laborer's wages 
for injuries done to animals or agricultural implements committed to 
his care, or for bad or negligent work. Bad work shall not be allowed. 
Failing to obey reasonable orders, neglect of duty and leaving home 
without permission, will be deemed disobedience. . . . For any dis- 
obedience a fine of one dollar shall be imposed on the offender. For 
all lost time from work hours, unless in case of sickness, the laborer 
shall be fined twenty-five cents per hour. For all absence from home 
without leave, the laborer will be fined at the rate of two dollars per 
day. Laborers will not be required to labor on the Sabbath except to 
take the necessary care of stock and other property on plantations and 
do the necessary cooking and household duties, unless by special con- 
tract. For all thefts of the laborers from the employer of agricultural 
products, hogs, sheep, poultry or any other property of the employer, 
or willful destruction of property or injury, the laborer shall pay the 
employer double the amount of the value of the property stolen, de- 
stroyed or injured, one half to be paid to the employer, and the other 
half to be placed in the general fund provided for in this section. No 
live stock shall be allowed to laborers without the permission of the 
employer. Laborers shall not receive visitors during work hours. All 
difficulties arising between the employers and laborers, under this sec- 
tion, shall be settled, and all fines be imposed, by the former; if not 
satisfactory to the laborers, an appeal may be had to the nearest justice 
of the peace and two freeholders, citizens, one of said citizens to be 
selected by the employer and the other by the laborer; and all fines 
imposed and collected under this section shall be deducted from the 
wages due, and shall be placed in a common fund, to be divided 
among the other laborers employed on the plantation at the time when 
their full wages fall due, except as provided for above." 

Similar detailed regulations of work were in the South Carolina 
law. Elaborate provision was made for contracting colored "servants" 
to white "masters." Their masters were given the right to whip "mod- 
erately" servants under eighteen. Others were to be whipped on au- 
thority of judicial officers. These officers were given authority to return 
runaway servants to their masters. The servants, on the other hand, 
were given certain rights. Their wages and period of service must be 
specified in writing, and they were protected against "unreasonable" 
tasks, Sunday and night work, unauthorized attacks on their persons, 
and inadequate food. 


Contracting Negroes were to be known as "servants" and contractors 
as "masters." Wages were to be fixed by the judge, unless stipulated. 
Negroes of ten years of age or more without a parent living in the 
district might make a valid contract for a year or less. Failure to make 
written contracts was a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $5 to $50; 
farm labor to be from sunrise to sunset, with intervals for meals; 
servants to rise at dawn, to be careful of master's property and answer- 
able for property lost or injured. Lost time was to be deducted from 
wages. Food and clothes might be deducted. Servants were to be quiet 
and orderly and to go to bed at reasonable hours. No night work or 
outdoor work in bad weather was to be asked, except in cases of neces- 
sity, visitors not allowed without the master's consent. Servants 
leaving employment without good reason must forfeit wages. Masters 
might discharge servants for disobedience, drunkenness, disease, ab- 
sence, etc. Enticing away the services of a servant was punishable by a 
fine of $20 to $100. A master could command a servant to aid him in 
defense of his own person, family or property. House servants at all 
hours of the day and night, and at all days of the week, "must answer 
promptly all calls and execute all lawful orders." 

The right to sell farm products "without written evidence from 
employer" was forbidden in South Carolina, and some other states. 
"A person of color who is in the employment of a master, engaged in 
husbandry, shall not have the right to sell any corn, rice, peas, wheat, 
or other grain, any flour, cotton, fodder, hay, bacon, fresh meat of any 
kind, poultry of any kind, animals of any kind, or any other product 
of a farm, without having written evidence from such master, or some 
person authorized by him, or from the district judge or a magistrate, 
that he has the right to sell such product." 

There were elaborate laws covering the matter of contracts for work. 
A contract must be in writing and usually, as in South Carolina, white 
witnesses must attest it and a judge approve it. In Florida, contracts 
were to be in writing and failure to keep the contracts by disobedience 
or impudence was to be treated as vagrancy. In Kentucky, contracts 
were to be in writing and attested by a white person. In Mississippi, 
contracts were to be in writing attested by a white person, and if the 
laborer stopped work, his wages were to be forfeited for a year. He 
could be arrested, and the fee for his arrest must be paid by the em- 
ployer and taken out of his wages. 

There were careful provisions to protect the contracting employer 
from losing his labor. In Alabama, "When any laborer or servant, hav- 
ing contracted as provided in the first section of this act, shall after- 
ward be found, before the termination of said contract, in the service 
or employment of another, that fact shall be prima facie evidence that 


such person is guilty of violation of this act, if he fail and refuse to 
forthwith discharge the said laborer or servant, after being notified and 
informed of such former contract and employment." 

Mississippi provided "that every civil officer shall, and every person 
may, arrest and carry back to his or her legal employer any freedman, 
free Negro, or mulatto who shall have quit the service of his or her 
employer before the expiration of his or her term of service without 
good cause; and said officer and person shall be entitled to receive for 
arresting and carrying back every deserting employee aforesaid the 
sum of five dollars, and ten cents per mile from the place of arrest to 
the place of delivery, and the same shall be paid by the employer and 
held as a set-off for so much against the wages of said deserting em- 

It was provided in some states, like South Carolina, that any white 
man, whether an officer or not, could arrest a Negro. "Upon view of 
a misdemeanor committed by a person of color, any person present 
may arrest the offender and take him before a magistrate, to be dealt 
with as the case may require. In case of a misdemeanor committed 
by a white person toward a person of color, any person may complain 
to a magistrate, who shall cause the offender to be arrested, and, ac- 
cording to the nature of the case, to be brought before himself, or be 
taken for trial in the district court." 

On the other hand, in Mississippi, it was dangerous for a Negro to 
try to bring a white person to court on any charge. "In every case 
where any white person has been arrested and brought to trial, by 
virtue of the provisions of the tenth section of the above recited act, 
in any court in this State, upon sufficient proof being made to the 
court or jury, upon the trial before said court, that any freedman, free 
Negro or mulatto has falsely and maliciously caused the arrest and 
trial of said white person or persons, the court shall render up a judg- 
ment against said freedman, free Negro or mulatto for all costs of the 
case, and impose a fine not to exceed fifty dollars, and imprisonment 
in the county jail not to exceed twenty days; and for a failure of said 
freedman, free Negro or mulatto to pay, or cause to be paid, all costs, 
fines and jail fees, the sheriff of the county is hereby authorized and 
required, after giving ten days' public notice, to proceed to hire out 
at public outcry, at the court-house of the county, said freedman, free 
Negro or mulatto, for the shortest time to raise the amount necessary 
to discharge said freedman, free Negro or mulatto from all costs, fines, 
and jail fees aforesaid." 

Mississippi declared that: "Any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, 
committing riots, routs, affrays, trespasses, malicious mischief and 
cruel treatment to animals, seditious speeches, insulting gestures, Ian- 


guage or acts, or assaults on any person, disturbance of the peace, 
exercising the functions of a minister of the gospel without a license 
from some regularly organized church, vending spirituous or intoxi- 
cating liquors, or committing any other misdemeanor, the punishment 
of which is not specifically provided for by law, shall, upon conviction 
thereof, in the county court, be fined not less than ten dollars, and not 
more than one hundred dollars, and may be imprisoned, at the discre- 
tion of the court, not exceeding thirty days." 

As to other civil rights, the marriage of Negroes was for the first 
time recognized in the Southern states and slave marriages legalized. 
South Carolina said in general: "That the statutes and regulations con- 
cerning slaves are now inapplicable to persons of color; and although 
such persons are not entitled to social or political equality with white 
persons, they shall have the right to acquire, own, and dispose of prop- 
erty, to make contracts, to enjoy the fruits of their labor, to sue and be 
sued, and to receive protection under the law in their persons and 

Florida forbade "colored and white persons respectively from in- 
truding upon each other's public assemblies, religious or other, or 
public vehicle set apart for their exclusive use, under punishment of 
pillory or stripes, or both." 

Very generally Negroes were prohibited or limited in their owner- 
ship of firearms. In Florida, for instance, it was "unlawful for any 
Negro, mulatto, or person of color to own, use, or keep in possession 
or under control any bowie-knife, dirk, sword, firearms, or ammuni- 
tion of any kind, unless by license of the county judge of probate, 
under a penalty of forfeiting them to the informer, and of standing in 
the pillory one hour, or be whipped not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, 
or both, at the discretion of the jury." 

Alabama had a similar law making it illegal to sell, give or rent 
firearms or ammunition of any description "to any freedman, free 
Negro or mulatto." 

Mississippi refused arms to Negroes. "No freedman, free Negro, or 
mulatto, not in the military service of the United States Government, 
and not licensed to do so by the board of police of his or her county, 
shall keep or carry firearms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk, or 
bowie-knife; and on conviction thereof, in the county court, shall be 
punished by fine, not exceeding ten dollars, and pay the costs of such 
proceedings, and all such arms or ammunition shall be forfeited to 
the informer." 

A South Carolina Negro could only keep firearms on permission in 
writing from the District Judge. "Persons of color constitute no part 
of the militia of the State, and no one of them shall, without permis- 


sion in writing from the district judge or magistrate, be allowed to 
keep a firearm, sword, or other military weapon, except that one of 
them, who is the owner of a farm, may keep a shot-gun or rifle, such 
as is ordinarily used in hunting, but not a pistol, musket, or other 
firearm or weapon appropriate for purposes of war . . . and in case 
of conviction, shall be punished by a fine equal to twice the value of 
the weapon so unlawfully kept, and if that be not immediately paid, 
by corporal punishment." 

The right of buying and selling property was usually granted but 
sometimes limited as to land. Mississippi declared : "That all f reedmen, 
free Negroes and mulattoes may sue and be sued, implead and be im- 
pleaded in all the courts of law and equity of this State, and may ac- 
quire personal property and choses in action by descent or purchase, 
and may dispose of the same in the same manner and to the same 
extent that white persons may: Provided, that the provisions of this 
section shall not be so construed as to allow any freedman, free Negro 
or mulatto to rent or lease any lands or tenements, except in incorpor- 
ated towns or cities, in which places the corporate authorities shall 
control the same." 

The most important and oppressive laws were those with regard to 
vagrancy and apprenticeship. Sometimes they especially applied to 
Negroes; in other cases, they were drawn in general terms but evi- 
dently designed to fit the Negro's condition and to be enforced par- 
ticularly with regard to Negroes. 

The Virginia Vagrant Act enacted that "any justice of the peace, 
upon the complaint of any one of certain officers therein named, may 
issue his warrant for the apprehension of any person alleged to be a 
vagrant and cause such person to be apprehended and brought before 
him; and that if upon due examination said justice of the peace shall 
find that such person is a vagrant within the definition of vagrancy 
contained in said statute, he shall issue his warrant, directing such 
person to be employed for a term not exceeding three months, and by 
any constable of the county wherein the proceedings are had, be hired 
out for the best wages which can be procured, his wages to be applied 
to the support of himself and his family. The said statute further pro- 
vides, that in case any vagrant so hired shall, during his term of serv- 
ice, run away from his employer without sufficient cause, he shall be 
apprehended on the warrant of a justice of the peace and returned to 
the custody of his employer, who shall then have, free from any other 
hire, the services of such vagrant for one month in addition to the 
original term of hiring, and that the employer shall then have power, 
if authorized by a justice of the peace, to work such vagrant with ball 
and chain. The said statute specified the persons who shall be con- 


sidered vagrants and liable to the penalties imposed by it. Among those 
declared to be vagrants are all persons who, not having the wherewith 
to support their families, live idly and without employment, and re- 
fuse to work for the usual and common wages given to other laborers 
in the like work in the place where they are." 

In Florida, January 12, 1866: "It is provided that when any person 
of color shall enter into a contract as aforesaid, to serve as a laborer for 
a year, or any other specified term, on any farm or plantation in this 
State, if he shall refuse or neglect to perform the stipulations of his 
contract by willful disobedience of orders, wanton impudence or dis- 
respect to his employer, or his authorized agent, failure or refusal to 
perform the work assigned to him, idleness, or abandonment of the 
premises or the employment of the party with whom the contract was 
made, he or she shall be liable, upon the complaint of his employer 
or his agent, made under oath before any justice of the peace of the 
county, to be arrested and tried before the criminal court of the county, 
and upon conviction shall be subject to all the pains and penalties pre- 
scribed for the punishment of vagrancy." 

In Georgia, it was ruled that "All persons wandering or strolling 
about in idleness, who are able to work, and who have no property 
to support them; all persons leading an idle, immoral, or profligate 
life, who have no property to support them and are able to work and 
do not work; all persons able to work having no visible and known 
means of a fair, honest, and respectable livelihood; all persons having 
a fixed abode, who have no visible property to support them, and who 
live by stealing or by trading in, bartering for, or buying stolen prop- 
erty; and all professional gamblers living in idleness, shall be deemed 
and considered vagrants, and shall be indicted as such, and it shall be 
lawful for any person to arrest said vagrants and have them bound 
over for trial to the next term of the county court, and upon convic- 
tion, they shall be fined and imprisoned or sentenced to work on the 
public works, for not longer than a year, or shall, in the discretion of 
the court, be bound over for trial to the next term of the county court, 
and upon conviction, they shall be fined and imprisoned or sentenced 
to work on the public works, for not longer than a year, or shall, in 
the discretion of the court, be bound out to some person for a time 
not longer than one year, upon such valuable consideration as the 
court may prescribe." 

Mississippi provided "That all freedmen, free Negroes, and mulat- 
toes in this state over the age of eighteen years, found on the second 
Monday in January, 1866, or thereafter, with no lawful employment or 
business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves together, either 
in the day or night time, and all white persons so assembling with 


freedmen, free Negroes or mulattoes, or usually associating with 
freedmen, free Negroes or mulattoes on terms of equality, or living in 
adultery or fornication with a freedwoman, free Negro or mulatto, 
shall be deemed vagrants, and on conviction thereof shall be fined in 
the sum of not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free Negro or 
mulatto, fifty dollars, and a white man two hundred dollars and im- 
prisoned, at the discretion of the court, the free Negro not exceeding 
ten days, and the white men not exceeding six months." 

Sec. 5 provides that "all fines and forfeitures collected under the 
provisions of this act shall be paid into the county treasury for general 
county purposes, and in case any freedman, free Negro or mulatto, 
shall fail for five days after the imposition of any fine or forfeiture 
upon him or her, for violation of any of the provisions of this act to 
pay the same, that it shall be, and is hereby made, the duty of the 
Sheriff of the proper county to hire out said freedman, free Negro or 
mulatto, to any person who will, for the shortest period of service, pay 
said fine or forfeiture and all costs; Provided, a preference shall be 
given to the employer, if there be one, in which case the employer 
shall be entitled to deduct and retain the amount so paid from the 
wages of such freedman, free Negro or mulatto, then due or to become 
due; and in case such freedman, free Negro or mulatto cannot be 
hired out, he or she may be dealt with as a pauper." 

South Carolina declared to be vagrants all persons without fixed 
and known places of abode and lawful employment, all prostitutes 
and all persons wandering from place to place and selling without a 
license; all gamblers; idle and disobedient persons; persons without 
sufficient means of support; persons giving plays or entertainments 
without license; fortune-tellers, beggars, drunkards and hunters. If a 
person of color is unable to earn his support, his near relatives must 
contribute. Pauper funds were composed of fines paid by Negroes 
and taxes on Negroes. On the other hand, former slaves who were 
helpless and had been on plantations six months previous to Novem- 
ber 10, 1865, could not be evicted before January 1, 1867. 

In Alabama, the "former owner" was to have preference in the 
apprenticing of a child. This was true in Kentucky and Mississippi. 

Mississippi "provides that it shall be the duty of all sheriffs, justices 
of the peace, and other civil officers of the several counties in this 
state to report to the probate courts of their respective counties semi- 
annually, at the January and July terms of said courts, all freedmen, 
free Negroes and mulattoes, under the age of eighteen, within their 
respective counties, beats, or districts, who are orphans, or whose 
parent or parents have not the means, or who refuse to provide for 
and support said minors, and thereupon it shall be the duty of said 


probate court to order the clerk of said court to apprentice said minors 
to some competent and suitable person, on such terms as the court 
may direct, having a particular care to the interest of said minors; 
Provided, that the former owner of said minors shall have the prefer- 
ence when, in the opinion of the court, he or she shall be a suitable 
person for that purpose." 

South Carolina established special courts for colored people, to be 
created in each district to administer the law in respect to persons of 
color. The petit juries of these courts were to consist of only six men. 
The local magistrate "shall be specially charged with the supervision 
of persons of color in his neighborhood, their protection, and the pre- 
vention of their misconduct." Public order was to be secured by the 
organization of forty-five or more militia regiments. 

"Capital punishment was provided for colored persons guilty of 
willful homicide, assault upon a white woman, impersonating her hus- 
band for carnal purposes, raising an insurrection, stealing a horse, a 
mule, or baled cotton, and house-breaking. For crimes not demanding 
death Negroes might be confined at hard labor, whipped, or trans- 
ported; 'but punishments more degrading than imprisonment shall 
not be imposed upon a white person for a crime not infamous.' " 3T 

In most states Negroes were allowed to testify in courts but the 
testimony was usually confined to cases where colored persons were 
involved, although in some states, by consent of the parties, they could 
testify in cases where only white people were involved. In Alabama 
"all freedmen, free Negroes and mulattoes, shall have the right to sue 
and be sued, plead and be impleaded in all the different and various 
courts of this State, to the same extent that white persons now have 
by law. And they shall be competent to testify only in open court, and 
only in cases in which freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes are 
parties, either plaintiff or defendant, and in civil or criminal cases, for 
injuries in the persons and property of freedmen, free Negroes and 
mulattoes, and in all cases, civil or criminal, in which a freedman, free 
Negro, or mulatto, is a witness against a white person, or a white per- 
son against a freedman, free Negro or mulatto, the parties shall be 
competent witnesses." 

North Carolina, March 10, 1866, "gives them all the privileges of 
white persons before the courts in the mode of prosecuting, defending, 
continuing, removing, and transferring their suits at law in equity," 
and makes them eligible as witnesses, when not otherwise incompe- 
tent, in "all controversies at law and in equity where the rights of per- 
sons or property of persons of color shall be put in issue, and would be 
concluded by the judgment or decree of courts; and also in pleas of 
the State, where the violence, fraud, or injury alleged shall be charged 


to have been done by or to persons of color. In all other civil and crim- 
inal cases such evidence shall be deemed inadmissible, unless by con- 
sent of the parties of record." 

Mississippi simply reenacted her slave code and made it operative 
so far as punishments were concerned. "That all the penal and crim- 
inal laws now in force in this State, defining offenses, and prescribing 
the mode of punishment for crimes and misdemeanors committed by 
slaves, free Negroes or mulattoes, be and the same are hereby re- 
enacted, and declared to be in full force and effect, against freedmen, 
free Negroes, and mulattoes, except so far as the mode and manner of 
trial and punishment have been changed or altered by law." 

North Carolina, on the other hand, abolished her slave code, making 
difference of punishment only in the case of Negroes convicted of rape. 
Georgia placed the fines and costs of a servant upon the master. 
"Where such cases shall go against the servant, the judgment for costs 
upon written notice to the master shall operate as a garnishment 
against him, and he shall retain a sufficient amount for the payment 
thereof, out of any wages due to said servant, or to become due dur- 
ing the period of service, and may be cited at any time by the collect- 
ing officer to make answer thereto." 

The celebrated ordinance of Opelousas, Louisiana, shows the local 
ordinances regulating Negroes. "No Negro or freedman shall be al- 
lowed to come within the limits of the town of Opelousas without 
special permission from his employer, specifying the object of his visit 
and the time necessary for the accomplishment of the same. 

"Every Negro freedman who shall be found on the streets of 
Opelousas after ten o'clock at night without a written pass or permit 
from his employer, shall be imprisoned and compelled to work five 
days on the public streets, or pay a fine of five dollars. 

"No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to rent or keep a house 
within the limits of the town under any circumstances, and anyone 
thus offending shall be ejected, and compelled to find an employer or 
leave the town within twenty-four hours. 

"No Negro or freedman shall reside within the limits of the town 
of Opelousas who is not in the regular service of some white person 
or former owner, who shall be held responsible for the conduct of said 

"No Negro or freedman shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or 
otherwise declaim to congregations of colored people without a special 
permission from the Mayor or President of the Board of Police, under 
the penalty of a fine of ten dollars or twenty days' work on the public 

"No freedman who is not in the military service shall be allowed to 


carry firearms, or any kind of weapons within the limits of the town 
of Opelousas without the special permission of his employer, in writ- 
ing, and approved by the Mayor or President of the Board. 

"Any freedman not residing in Opelousas, who shall be found 
within its corporate limits after the hour of 3 o'clock, on Sunday, with- 
out a special permission from his employer or the Mayor, shall be 
arrested and imprisoned and made to work two days on the public 
streets, or pay two dollars in lieu of said work." 38 

Of Louisiana, Thomas Conway testified February 22, 1866: "Some 
of the leading officers of the state down there — men who do much to 
form and control the opinions of the masses — instead of doing as they 
promised, and quietly submitting to the authority of the government, 
engaged in issuing slave codes and in promulgating them to their 
subordinates, ordering them to carry them into execution, and this to 
the knowledge of state officials of a higher character, the governor and 
others. And the men who issued them were not punished except as 
the military authorities punished them. The governor inflicted no pun- 
ishment on them while I was there, and I don't know that, up to this 
day, he has ever punished one of them. These codes were simply the 
old black code of the state, with the word 'slave' expunged, and 
'Negro' substituted. The most odious features of slavery were preserved 
in them. They were issued in three or four localities in the state, not 
a hundred miles from New Orleans, months after the surrender of 
the Confederate forces, and years after the issuance of the Emancipa- 
tion Proclamation. 

"I have had delegations to frequently come and see me — delegations 
composed of men who, to my face, denied that the proclamation issued 
by President Lincoln was a valid instrument, declaring that the Su- 
preme Court would pronounce it invalid. Consequently they have 
claimed that their Negroes were slaves and would again be restored to 
them. In the city of New Orleans last summer, under the orders of the 
acting mayor of the city, Hugh Kennedy, the police of that city con- 
ducted themselves towards the freedmen, in respect to violence and 
ill usage, in every way equal to the old days of slavery; arresting them 
on the streets as vagrants, without any form of law whatever, and 
simply because they did not have in their pockets certificates of em- 
ployment from their former owners or other white citizens. 

"I have gone to the jails and released large numbers of them, men 
who were industrious and who had regular employment; yet because 
they had not the certificates of white men in their pockets they were 
locked up in jail to be sent out to plantations; locked up, too, without 
my knowledge, and done speedily and secretly before I had informa- 
tion of it. Some members of the Seventy-Fourth United States Colored 


Infantry, a regiment which was mustered out but one clay, were ar- 
rested the next because they did not have these certificates of employ- 
ment. This was done to these men after having served in the United 
States army three years. They were arrested by the police under the 
order of the acting mayor, Mr. Hugh Kennedy. . . ." 39 

The aim and object of these laws cannot be mistaken. "In many 
cases the restraints imposed went to the length of a veritable 'involun- 
tary servitude.' " 40 

Professor Burgess says: "Almost every act, word or gesture of the 
Negro, not consonant with good taste and good manners as well as 
good morals, was made a crime or misdemeanor, for which he could 
first be fined by the magistrates and then consigned to a condition of 
almost slavery for an indefinite time, if he could not pay the bill." 41 

Dunning admits that "The legislation of the reorganized govern- 
ments, under cover of police regulations and vagrancy laws, had 
enacted severe discriminations against the freedmen in all the common 
civil rights." 42 

A recent study says of South Carolina: 

"The interests of both races would have been better served had there 
never been a 'black code.' This would be true even if there had been 
no Northern sentiment to take into account. Economically, the laws 
were impracticable, since they tried to place the Negro in a position 
inferior to that which competition or his labor would have given 
him." 43 

"But it is monotonous iteration to review the early legislation of 
the reconstructed governments established under the proclamation of 
the President. In most of the states the laws established a condition 
but little better than that of slavery, and in one important respect far 
worse; for in place of the property interest, which would induce the 
owner to preserve and care for his slave, there was substituted the 
guardianship of penal statutes; and the ignorant black man, innocent 
of any intention to commit a wrong, could be bandied about from 
one temporary owner to another who would have no other interest 
than to wring out of him, without regard to his ultimate condition, 
all that was possible during the limited term of his thraldom." 44 

These slave laws have been defended in various ways. They were 
passed in the midst of bitterness and fear and with great haste; they 
were worded somewhat like similar vagrancy laws in Northern 
States; they would have been modified in time; they said more than 
they really meant. All of this may be partly true, but it remains per- 
fectly evident that the black codes looked backward toward slavery. 

This legislation profoundly stirred the North. Not the North of in- 
dustry and the new manufactures, but the ordinary everyday people 


of the North, who, uplifted by the tremendous afflatus of war, had 
seen a vision of something fine and just, and who, without any per- 
sonal affection for the Negro or real knowledge of him, nevertheless 
were convinced that Negroes were human, and that Negro slavery 
was wrong; and that whatever freedom might mean, it certainly did 
not mean reenslavement under another name. 

Here, then, was the dominant thought of that South with which 
Reconstruction must deal. Arising with aching head and palsied hands 
it deliberately looked backward. There came to the presidential chair, 
with vast power, a man who was Southern born; with him came 
inconceivable fears that the North proposed to make these Negroes 
really free; to give them a sufficient status even for voting, to give 
them the right to hold office; that there was even a possibility that 
these slaves might out-vote their former masters; that they might ac- 
cumulate wealth, achieve education, and finally, they might even 
aspire to marry white women and mingle their blood with the blood 
of their masters. 

It was fantastic. It called for revolt. It called in extremity for the 
renewal of war. The Negro must be kept in his place by hunger, whip- 
ping and murder. As W. P. Calhoun of Greenville, South Carolina, 
said as late as 1901: "Character, wealth, learning, good behavior, and 
all that makes up or constitutes good citizenship in the black man is 
positively of no avail whatever. Merit cannot win in this case." 45 

The cry of the bewildered freeman rose, but it was drowned by the 
Rebel yell. 

I am a Southerner; 
I love the South; I dared for her 
To fight from Lookout to the sea, 
With her proud banner over me. 
But from my lips thanksgiving broke, 
As God in battle-thunder spoke, 
And that Black Idol, breeding drouth 
And dearth of human sympathy 
Throughout the sweet and sensuous South, 

Was, with its chains and human yoke, 
Blown hellward from the cannon's mouth, 

While Freedom cheered behind the smoke! 

Maurice Thompson 

1. Compare Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic, pp. 11 -13; Beard, Amer- 

ican Civilization, II, p. 99. 

2. Herbert, "The Conditions of the Reconstruction Problems," Atlantic Monthly, 

LXXXVII, p. 146. 


3. The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, III, pp. 157-158. 

4. 39th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document Number 2, Report of Carl 


5. Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 1866, Part II. 

6. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 94. 

7. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 94. 

8. Wallace, Carpetbag Rule in Florida, pp. 34-35. 

9. Quotations of testimony are from Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 

1866, Parts II, III, and IV. 

10. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 94. 

11. Nicolay-Hay, Abraham Lincoln, VI, pp. 354-355. 

12. Wesley, "Lincoln's Plan for Colonizing the Emancipated Negro," Journal of Negro 

History, IV, p. 9. 

13. Fleming, Deportation and Colonization: Studies in Southern History and Politics, 

p. 10. 

14. Nicolay-Hay, Abraham Lincoln, VI, p. 357. 

15. Quoted: Journal of Negro History, IV, pp. 11-12. 

16. Wesley, "Lincoln's Plan for Colonizing the Emancipated Negro," Journal of Negro 

History, IV, pp. 12-13. 

17. Fleming, Deportation and Colonization: Studies in Southern History and Politics, 

P- 13- 

18. Wesley, "Lincoln's Plan for Colonizing the Emancipated Negro," Journal of Negro 

History, IV, p. 20. 

19. McClure, A. K., Recollections. 

20. Sumner, Charles, Complete Wor\s, VI, p. 302. 

21. Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, John Hopkins Studies, 28th Series, 

pp. 65, 66. 

22. Nicolay-Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX, pp. 105-110. 

23. Compare Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 62. 

24. Parton, General Butler in New Orleans, pp. 489-490. 

25. Parton, General Butler in New Orleans, p. 517. 

26. Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 65. 

27. Compare Ficklen. 

28. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, p. 20. 

29. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, II, p. 40. 

30. Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, pp. 74-77. 

31. Ficklen, History of Reconstruction in Louisiana, p. 89. 

32. Italics ours. 

33. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 226. 

34. Nicolay-Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IX, pp. 459-462. 

35. Clemenceau, American Reconstruction, 1865-1870, p. 232. 

36. Quotations from McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 

_ 29-44. 

37. Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, pp. 49, 50. 

38. Warmoth, War, Politics and Reconstruction, p. 274. 

39. Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 1866, Part IV, pp. 78-79. 

40. Atlantic Monthly, LXXXVII, January, 19 10, p. 6. 

41. Du Bois, Reconstruction and Its Benefits, p. 784. 

42. Dunning, Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction, p. 92. 

43. Simkins and Woody, Reconstruction in South Carolina, p. 51. 

44. Morse, Thaddeus Stevens, American Statesmen, pp. 253-254. 

45. Brewster, Sketches of Southern Mystery, p. 275. 


How two theories of the future of America clashed and blended 
just after the Civil War: the one was abolition-democracy based 
on freedom, intelligence and power for all men; the other was 
industry for private profit directed by an autocracy determined 
at any price to amass wealth and power. The uncomprehending 
resistance of the South, and the pressure of black folk, made these 
two thoughts uneasy and temporary allies 

A printer and a carpenter, a rail-splitter and a tailor — Garrison, 
Christ, Lincoln and Johnson, were the tools of the greatest moral 
awakening America ever knew, chosen to challenge capital invested 
in the bodies of men and annul the private profit of slavery. 

This done, two quite distinct but persistently undifferentiated vi- 
sions of the future dominated the triumphant North after the war. One 
was the prolongation of Puritan idealism, transformed by the frontier 
into a theory of universal democracy, and now expressed by Abolition- 
ists like Wendell Phillips, students of civilization like Charles Sumner, 
and leaders of the common people like Thaddeus Stephens, together 
with some of the leaders of the new labor movement. The other trend 
was entirely different and is confused with the democratic ideal be- 
cause the two ideals lay confused in so many individual minds. This 
was the development of industry in America and of a new industrial 

The new industry had a vision not of work but of wealth; not of 
planned accomplishment, but of power. It became the most conscience- 
less, unmoral system of industry which the world has experienced. 
It went with ruthless indifference towards waste, death, ugliness and 
disaster, and yet reared the most stupendous machine for the efficient 
organization of work which the world has ever seen. 

Thus the end of the Civil War was the beginning of vast economic 
development in the industrial expansion of the East, in the agricul- 
tural growth of the Middle West, in the new cattle industry of the 
plains, in the mining enterprises of the Rockies, in the development 
of the Pacific Coast, and in the reconstruction of the Southern market. 

Behind this extraordinary industrial development, as justification in 
the minds of men, lay what we may call the great American Assump- 
tion, which up to the time of the Civil War, was held more or less 



explicitly by practically all Americans. The American Assumption was 
that wealth is mainly the result of its owner's effort and that any aver- 
age worker can by thrift become a capitalist. The curious thing about 
this assumption was that while it was not true, it was undoubtedly 
more nearly true in America from 1820 to i860 than in any other con- 
temporary land. It was not true and not recognized as true during 
Colonial times; but with the opening of the West and the expanding 
industry of the twenties, and coincident with the rise of the Cotton 
Kingdom, it was a fact that often a poor white man in America by 
thrift and saving could obtain land and capital; and by intelligence 
and good luck he could become a small capitalist and even a rich man; 
and conversely a careless spendthrift though rich might become a 
pauper, since hereditary safeguards for property had little legal sanc- 

Thus arose the philosophy of "shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves," on 
which the American theory of compensated democracy was built. It 
asked simply, in eighteenth century accents, freedom from government 
interference with individual ventures, and a voice in the selection of 
government officials. The continued freedom of economic opportunity 
and ever possible increase of industrial income, it took for granted. 
This attitude was back of the adoption of universal suffrage, the dis- 
appearance of compulsory military service and imprisonment for debt, 
which characterized Jacksonian democracy. The American Assump- 
tion was contemporary with the Cotton Kingdom, which was its most 
sinister contradiction. The new captains of industry in the North were 
largely risen from the laboring class and thus living proof of the ease 
of capitalistic accumulation. The validity of the American Assumption 
ceased with the Civil War, but its tradition lasted down to the day of 
the Great Depression, when it died with a great wail of despair, not 
so much from bread lines and soup kitchens, as from poor and thrifty 
bank depositors and small investors. 

The American labor movement, founded in the spirit that regarded 
America as a refuge from oppression and free for individual develop- 
ment according to conscience and ability, grew and expanded in 
America, basing itself frankly upon the American Assumption. Its 
object was rule by the people, the wide education of people so that 
they could rule intelligently, and economic opportunity of wealth free 
for thrift. It found itself hindered by slavery in the South: directly, 
because of the growing belief of the influential planter class in 
oligarchy and the degradation of labor; and indirectly by the compe- 
tition of slave labor and the spread of the slave psychology. It became, 
therefore, at first more and more opposed to slavery as ethically wrong, 
politically dangerous, and economically unprofitable. 


Capital, on the other hand, accepted widespread suffrage as a fact 
forced on the world by revolution and the growing intelligence of the 
working class. But since the new industry called for intelligence in 
its workers, capitalists not only accepted universal suffrage but early 
discovered that high wages in America made even higher profits pos- 
sible; and that this high standard of living was itself a protection for 
capital in that it made the more intelligent and best paid of workers 
allies of capital and left its ultimate dictatorship undisturbed. Never- 
theless, industry took pains to protect itself wherever possible. It ex- 
cluded illiterate foreign voters from the ballot and advocated a reser- 
voir of non-voting common labor; and it stood ready at any time by 
direct bribery or the use of its power to hire and discharge labor, to 
manipulate the labor vote. 

The true significance of slavery in the United States to the whole 
social development of America, lay in the ultimate relation of slaves 
to democracy. What were to be the limits of democratic control in the 
United States? If all labor, black as well as white, became free, were 
given schools and the right to vote, what control could or should be 
set to the power and action of these laborers ? Was the rule of the mass 
of Americans to be unlimited, and the right to rule extended to all 
men, regardless of race and color, or if not, what power of dictatorship 
would rule, and how would property and privilege be protected ? This 
was the great and primary question which was in the minds of the 
men who wrote the Constitution of the United States and continued 
in the minds of thinkers down through the slavery controversy. It still 
remains with the world as the problem of democracy expands and 
touches all races and nations. 

The abolition-democracy was the liberal movement among both 
laborers and small capitalists, who united in the American Assumption, 
but saw the danger of slavery to both capital and labor. It began its 
moral fight against slavery in the thirties and forties and, gradually 
transformed by economic elements, concluded it during the war. The 
object and only real object of the Civil War in its eyes was the aboli- 
tion of slavery, and it was convinced that this could be thoroughly 
accomplished only if the emancipated Negroes became free citizens 
and voters. 

The abolition-democracy saw clearly the difficulties of this step, due 
to the ignorance and poverty of the freedmen. For the first time in 
the classic democracy in the United States, it was made aware that 
the American Assumption was not and could not be universally true. 
Some of the leaders of the labor movement even came to see that it 
was not true in the case of the mass of white labor. But that 


thought came to the Abolitionists afterwards and in the minds o£ only 
a few clear-sighted men like Wendell Phillips. 

At the time of the Civil War, it was, however, perfectly clear to 
Sumner and Stevens that freedom in order to be free required a 
minimum of capital in addition to political rights and that thL could 
be insured against the natural resentment of the planters only by some 
sort of dictatorship. Thus abolition-democracy was pushed towards 
the conception of a dictatorship of labor, although few of its advocates 
wholly grasped the fact that this necessarily involved dictatorship by 
labor over capital and industry. 

On the other hand, industrialists after the war expected the South 
to seize upon the opportunity to make increased profit by a more in- 
telligent exploitation of labor than was possible under the slave sys- 
tem. They looked upon free Negro labor as a source of profit, and 
considered freedom, that is, a legal doing away with individual physi- 
cal control, all that the Negroes or their friends could ask. They did 
not want for Negro labor any special protection or political power or 
capital, any more than they wanted this for Irish, German or Scan- 
dinavian labor in the North. They expected some popular education 
and a gradual granting of the right to vote, which would be straitly 
curtailed in its power for mischief by the far larger power of capital. 
The South, however, persisted in its pre-war conception of these 
two tendencies in the North. It sought to reestablish slavery by force, 
because it had no comprehension of the means by which modern 
industry could secure the advantages of slave labor without its respon- 
sibilities. The South, therefore, opposed Negro education, opposed 
land and capital for Negroes, and violently and bitterly opposed any 
political power. It fought every conception inch by inch: no real 
emancipation, limited civil rights, no Negro schools, no votes for 

In the face of such intransigence, Northern industry was, on the 
whole, willing to yield, since none of these concessions really obstructed 
the expansion of industry and capital in the nation. When, however, 
the South went beyond reason and truculently demanded not simply 
its old political power but increased political power based on disfran- 
chised Negroes, which it openly threatened to use for the revision of 
the tariff, for the repudiation of the national debt, for disestablishing 
the national banks, and for putting the new corporate form of industry 
under strict state regulation and rule, Northern industry was fright- 
ened and began to move towards the stand which abolition-democracy 
had already taken; namely, temporary dictatorship, endowed Negro 
education, legal civil rights, and eventually even votes for Negroes to 
offset the Southern threat of economic attack. 


The abolition-democracy was not deceived. It at once feared and 
dared. It wanted no revenge on the South and held no hatred. It did 
want to train Negroes in intelligence, experience and labor, the own- 
ership of land and capital, and the exercise of civil rights and the use 
of political power. In the advocacy of these things it reached the 
highest level of self-sacrificing statesmanship ever attained in Amer- 
ica; and two of the greatest leaders of the ideal, Stevens and Sumner, 
voluntarily laid down their lives on the altar of democracy and were 
eventually paid, as they must have anticipated they would be paid, by 
the widespread contempt of America. 

Even to this day, the grandsons of Abolitionists, ashamed of their 
fathers' faith in black men, are salving their conscience with a theory 
that democratic government by intelligent men of character is impos- 
sible, when, in fact, nothing else is possible; and the grandsons of the 
planters and of the poor whites who displaced them are excusing their 
apostasy to civilization by charging the Negro with all the evil caused 
by war, destruction and greed, and by the deeds of white men, North- 
ern and Southern. 

The abolition-democracy advocated Federal control to guide and 
direct the rise of the Negro, but they desired this control to be civil 
rather than military, like the strict government of territories until new 
states should develop. They had to help them in the furtherance of this 
plan a degree of enthusiasm, humility and hard work on the part of 
the depressed Negro which is not paralleled in modern history. When 
now they were offered alliance with Northern industry, temporary 
military control instead of civil government, and then immediate citi- 
zenship and the right to vote for Negroes, instead of a period of 
guardianship, they accepted because they could not refuse; because 
they knew that this was their only chance and that nothing else would 
be offered. Their theory of democracy led them to risk all, even in the 
absence of that economic and educational minimum which they knew 
was next to indispensable. When Sumner saw his failure here, he went 
home and wept. But the belief in the self-resurrection of democracy 
was strong in these men and lent unconscious power to the American 
Assumption. They expected that both Northern industry and the 
South, in sheer self-defense, would have to educate Negro intelligence 
and depend on Negro political power. 

The South was too astonished for belief, when it saw industry 
and democracy in the North united for a policy of coercion. In the 
past, the South had always been able by mere gesture of concession 
to bring Northern industry to its knees begging. It did not realize 
how strong Industry had grown and how conscious its power; and 
how boundless its plans. It did not realize that the basis of the 


South's own power had literally been swept away. Even the West, on 
which the South had long counted in theory, although sympathy had 
seldom led to effective action, while it fought industrial monopoly, the 
national debt and the money power, yet when it had to choose be- 
tween a continuation of Southern oligarchy and a great democratic 
movement, swung inevitably towards democracy. Northern capital 
went South and vied with the planters for the direction of the Negro 
vote. The poor whites scurried to cover, now here, now there, and a 
dictatorship of labor ensued, with a new democratic Constitution, new 
social legislation, public schools and public improvements. But of that 
we shall speak more in detail in later chapters. 

On the other hand, Northern industry seemed at last free and un- 
trammeled. It began in 1876 an exploitation which was built on much 
the same sort of slavery which it helped to overthrow in 1863. It mur- 
dered democracy in the United States so completely that the world 
does not recognize its corpse. It established as dominant in industry a 
monarchical system which killed the idea of democracy. 

The basis of the argument for Negro suffrage has usually been in- 
terpreted as a gesture of vengeance. But it was much deeper than this. 
It was phrased, first by Abraham Lincoln himself, as a method of re- 
taining "the Jewel of Liberty in the Family of Freedom"; this was 
echoed, however unwillingly, by Andrew Johnson as a sop to the 
Radicals; but it gradually came in the thought of the nation to be an 
inescapable thing. Votes for Negroes were in truth a final compromise 
between business and abolition and were forced on abolition by busi- 
ness as the only method of realizing the basic principles of abolition- 

All of the selfishness, cunning and power that were back of the new 
industry of the North have been looked upon as simply the other side 
of abolition-democracy; and the reason for this was that in several 
cases, the two ideas were mingled in individuals' minds. One can see 
that in the sermons of Henry Ward Beecher, who was a great advocate 
of votes for Negroes, but nevertheless instinctively capitalistic; stand- 
ing on the side of the exploiter, he had scant sympathy for the ex- 
ploited. There was something of this, although not nearly as much, in 
the case of Thaddeus Stevens, who was at heart the greatest and most 
uncompromising of abolitionist-democrats, but who advocated not 
only universal suffrage and free schools, but protection for Pennsyl- 
vania iron; yet in that protection he had just as distinctly in mind the 
welfare of the laborer as the profit of the employer. 

What, then, was the strength of the democratic movement which 
succeeded the war? In many respects it was emotional. It swept the 
land with its music and poetry. A war, which to the intense dissatisfac- 


tion of the Abolitionists had begun with the distinct object, even on 
the part of the great Emancipator, to save and protect slavery, and in 
no way to disturb it, except to keep it out of competition with the free 
peasant of the West, had resulted in Emancipation. Men like William 
Lloyd Garrison, who had no sympathy with the platform of the Re- 
publicans in i860, became suddenly the center of the stage of the new 
dispensation. Thus, a legal-metaphysical dispute, involving the right 
of slave states to expand into the territories, was rapidly changed, first 
to a question of freedom for slaves, and then to a struggle for inau- 
gurating a new form of national government in the United States. 

When the physical war ended, then the real practical problems pre- 
sented themselves. How was slavery to be effectively abolished? And 
what was to be the status of the Negroes ? What was the condition and 
power of the states which had rebelled? The legal solution of these 
questions was easy. The states that had attempted to rebel had failed. 
They must now resume their relations to the government. Slavery had 
been abolished as a war measure. This should be confirmed and ex- 
tended by a constitutional amendment. Some control of the Negro 
population must be devised in the place of slavery, so as to introduce 
the Negro into his new freedom. The power of the national govern- 
ment had been greatly expanded by war. This expansion must be 
consolidated so that in the future secession would be impossible and 
slavery never reestablished. 

The difficulty with this legalistic formula was that it did not cling 
to facts. Slavery was not abolished even after the Thirteenth Amend- 
ment. There were four million freedmen and most of them on the 
same plantation, doing the same work that they did before emanci- 
pation, except as their work had been interrupted and changed by the 
upheaval of war. Moreover, they were getting about the same wages 
and apparently were going to be subject to slave codes modified only 
in name. There were among them thousands of fugitives in the camps 
of the soldiers or on the streets of the cities, homeless, sick and im- 
poverished. They had been freed practically with no land nor money, 
and, save in exceptional cases, without legal status, and without pro- 

Negroes deserved not only the pity of the world but the gratitude 
of both South and North. Under extraordinary provocation they had 
acted like decent human beings; they had protected their masters' fami- 
lies, when their masters were away fighting for black slavery. They 
did this naturally because they were not sure that the North was fight- 
ing for freedom, and because they did not know which side would 
win. But, at any rate, they did it. And even when they understood that 
the North, willing or unwilling, was bound towards freedom, and 


that they could fight for their own freedom, they were neither vindic- 
tive nor cruel towards their former masters, although they were quite 
naturally widely accused of "laziness" and "impudence," which are 
the only weapons of offense which a rising social class can easily use. 

These black men wanted freedom; they wanted education; they 
wanted protection. They had been of great help to the Union armies 
and that help had been given under great stress. Black soldiers had 
been outlawed, and in many cases ruthlessly murdered by the enemy 
who refused to regard them as soldiers or as human. They took 
chances every time they put on a uniform. Yet after the war they were 
still not free; they were still practically slaves, and how was their free- 
dom to be made a fact? It could be done in only one way. They must 
have the protection of law; and back of law must stand physical force. 
They must have land; they must have education. How was all this to 
be done? 

Lincoln tried hard in the Border States, long before the end of the 
war, to get voluntary emancipation and pay for the slaves, so that a 
new system of labor under favorable circumstances could be arranged. 
The Border States would have none of it. The war ended in anarchy 
as war always ends. The cost had been so great that there could be no 
thought of pay for the slaves, even on the part of the South, after the 
first flush of Reconstruction. There was no possibility of paying for 
capital destroyed in other ways, or of quickly restoring the neglected 
land and tools. 

Thus by the sheer logic of facts, there arose in the United States a 
clear and definite program for the freedom and uplift of the Negro, 
and for the extension of the realization of democracy. Some of the 
men who had this vision were identified with the new industry, but 
saw no incongruity or opposition between their ideas or between the 
rise and expansion of tariff-protected corporations and their equally 
sincere beliefs in democratic methods. Others were not identified with 
industry at all. They were, some of them, rich men, supported by in- 
comes derived from industry; most of them were poor men earning a 
salary. Some of them were laborers. These men started from the 
Abolitionist's point of view. Slavery was wrong because it reduced 
human beings to the level of animals. The abolition of slavery meant 
not simply abolition of legal ownership of the slave; it meant the up- 
lift of slaves and their eventual incorporation into the body civil, 
politic, and social, of the United States. There was, of course, much 
difference as to the exact extent of this incorporation, but less and less 
desire to limit it in any way by law. 

The Negro must have civil rights as a citizen; he must eventually 
have political rights like every other citizen of the United States. And 


while social rights could not be a matter of legislation, they, on the 
other hand, must not be denied through legislation, but remain a mat- 
ter of free individual choice. This outlook and theory of the Abolition- 
ists received tremendous impetus from the war. Those who had been 
classed as fanatics, who had been left out of the society of the re- 
spected, and mobbed, North, East and West, suddenly became the 
moral justification by which the North marched on to victory. 

All of the great literature of the Civil War was based mainly upon 
human freedom, and in so far as it stressed union, it had to make it 
"liberty" and union. The war songs, the war stories, the war afflatus, 
were based on the freedom of the slaves, just as in the World War 
we mobilized the mass of mankind in a war to end war and to pro- 
mote the freedom and union of nations. 

Moreover, the new abolition-democracy that came after the war 
had a tremendous and unexpected source and method of propaganda, 
and that lay in the crusade of the New England schoolmarm. "The 
annals of this Ninth Crusade are yet to be written — the tale of a mis- 
sion that seemed to our age far more quixotic than the quest of St. 
Louis seemed to his. Behind the mist of ruin and rapine waved the 
calico dresses of women who dared, and after the hoarse mouthings 
of the field guns rang the rhythm of the alphabet. Rich and poor they 
were, serious and curious. Bereaved now of a father, now of a brother, 
now of more than these, they came seeking a life work in planting 
the New England schoolhouse among the white and black of the 
South. They did their work well. In that first year they taught one 
hundred thousand souls, and more." 1 

Here for the first time there was established between the white and 
black of this country a contact on terms of essential social equality 
and mutual respect. There had been contact between Negroes and 
white people in the old South; and in some cases contact of beautiful 
friendship, and even warm love and affection. But this was spasmodic 
and exceptional and had to be partially concealed; and always it was 
spoiled by the sense of inferiority on the part of the Negro, and the 
will to rule on the part of the whites. 

But in a thousand schools of the South after the war were brought 
together the most eager of the emancipated blacks and that part of 
the North which believed in democracy; and this social contact of 
human beings became a matter of course. The results were of all sorts. 
Sometimes the teachers became disgusted; sometimes the students be- 
came sullen and impudent; but, on the whole, the result was one of 
the most astonishing successes in new and sudden human contacts. 
We must also remember that the population of the sixties was divided 
into church congregations, and the great majority of these Methodist, 


Baptist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Quaker congregations in the 
North were represented directly or indirectly in the South, after the 
war, by one of their members who reported the work that she (and it 
was usually she) was doing with colored people. This work, to an 
unusual degree, was so successful and so helpful that her words car- 
ried widespread conviction. 

At the beginning of the war probably not one white American in 
a hundred believed that Negroes could become an integral part of 
American democracy. They were slaves and cowards, ignorant by 
nature and not by lack of teaching. Even if they were going to be 
freed, they must be got rid of or rid the land of themselves. During 
the war came the first real revulsion of feeling when it was found 
that Negroes could and would fight; were apt subjects for military 
discipline, and indispensable in the conduct of the war. Beyond that 
came the change in feeling when the rise of schools over all the South 
showed that the Negro would and could learn. There might be con- 
tinued doubt as to the extent of the learning and the height to which 
the race could rise; but nobody in that day of widespread immigration 
from Europe could doubt that the Negro was capable of at least as 
much education as the ordinary Northern laborer. 

Present America has no conception of the cogency of this argument. 
In 1865, the right of all free Americans to be voters was unquestioned, 
and had not been questioned since the time of Andrew Jackson, except 
in the case of women, where it interfered with sex-ownership. The 
burden of the proof lay on the man who said there could be in the 
United States four or five million Americans without the right to 
vote. What would they be? What status would they hold? Would 
they not inevitably be slaves, in spite of the fact that they were called 
free? There were, to be sure, Northern states which would not allow 
Negroes to vote; but many of the Northern states did; and most of 
those that did not had comparatively few Negroes. The whole argu- 
ment against Negro suffrage, even in those states, had been based on 
the status of the slave in the South. When the slave became free, a 
new problem was staged for such Northern states. 

Two men stand in the forefront of this new attempt to expand and 
implement democracy: Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens. 

Sumner had been fighting steadily not simply against slavery, but 
for the manhood rights of the free Negro, ever since he entered Con- 
gress. By amending the Act of March 3, 1863, he stopped discrimina- 
tion on street cars between Washington and Alexandria and by the 
Act of March 3, 1865, extended this to all the railways of the District. 
June 25, 1864, by amending an appropriation bill, he stopped discrim- 
ination in the United States courts, a result which he called "The most 


important of all in establishing the manhood and citizenship of the 
colored people. . . . For this result, I have labored two years." 

He fought for equal pay to Negro soldiers and finally secured a 
favorable decision of the Attorney-General. In 1 863-1 864, he fought 
unsuccessfully against "white" suffrage in the new territory of Mon- 
tana; he tried to include colored citizens among the voters of the city 
of Washington, but lost again. 

"At this moment of revolution, when our country needs the bless- 
ing of Almighty God and the strong arms of all her children, this is 
not the time for us solemnly to enact injustice. In duty to our country 
and in duty to God, I plead against any such thing. We must be 
against slavery in its original shape, and in all its brood of prejudice 
and error." 2 

Four years later, Senator Doolittle said that Sumner had "always 
been in favor of pushing Negro suffrage; he was the originator of that 
notion; he is the master of that new school of Reconstruction." 

In December, 1864, Sumner sketched an anti-slavery amendment. 
This was adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society and early in 
the session was moved by Ashley of Ohio and Wilson of Iowa in the 
House, and Henderson of Missouri in the Senate. Sumner yielded to 
Trumbull, who adopted the formula of the Ordinance of 1787, which 
finally became the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Sumner secured a 
special committee on slavery and freedmen in the Senate in January, 
1864, and became the Chairman. He introduced a bill to repeal all 
fugitive slave laws and the Committee reported it. It was opposed by 
both Democratic and Republican Senators. It was amended so as to 
save the law of 1793, and the Committee dropped it. Two months 
later, a House bill reached the Senate, and Sumner reported it. Sauls- 
bury of Delaware wanted "one day without the nigger." The bill was 
finally passed, 27-12, and Lincoln signed it June 28, 1864. 

Sumner indeed assumed a mighty task, and one realized it as he 
stood February 5, 1866, before the Senate of the United States, before 
all the Representatives that could crowd into the hall, before an audi- 
ence including the whole nation and in some degree the whole world. 
He spoke four hours on two successive days. Public interest was in- 
tense; the galleries of the Senate were crowded, and there were a num- 
ber of colored people, including Frederick Douglass and Henry High- 
land Garnett. 

The voice of the speaker was solemn and earnest. His style and pres- 
ence held the audience to every word. 3 "Rarely, if ever did he make a 
deeper impression in the Senate or awaken wider interest in the coun- 
try." Thomas Wentworth Higginson found nothing in contemporary 
statesmanship, here or abroad, to equal the speech, and when Sumner 


. sat down, the audience broke into applause. Charles Sumner was at 
the time fifty-five years of age, handsome, but heavy of carriage, a 
I. scholar and gentleman, no leader of men but a leader of thought, and 
one of the finest examples of New England culture and American 
courage. His speech laid down a Magna Charta of democracy in 

"I begin by expressing a heart-felt aspiration that the day may soon 
come when the states lately in rebellion may be received again into 
the copartnership of political power and the full fellowship of the 
Union. But I see too well that it is vain to expect this day, which is 
so much longed for, until we have obtained that security for the fu- 
ture, which is found only in the Equal Rights of All, whether in the 
court-room or at the ballot-box. This is the Great Guarantee, without 
which all other guarantees will fail. This is the sole solution of our 
present troubles and anxieties. This is the only sufficient assurance of 
peace and reconciliation. . . . 

"Our fathers solemnly announced the Equal Rights of all men, and 
that Government had no just foundation except in the consent of the 
governed; and to the support of the Declaration, heralding these self- 
evident truths, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred 
honor. . . . And now the moment has come when these vows must be 
fulfilled to the letter. In securing the Equal Rights of the freedman, 
and his participation in the Government, which he is taxed to support, 
we shall perform those early promises of the Fathers, and at the same 
time the supplementary promises only recently made to the freedman 
as the condition of alliance and aid against the Rebellion. A failure to 
perform these promises is moral and political bankruptcy. . . . 

"Twice already, since rebel slavery rose . . . [necessity] has spoken 
to us, insisting: first, that the slaves should be declared free; and 
secondly, that muskets should be put into their hands for the com- 
mon defense. Yielding to necessity, these two things were done. Rea- 
son, humanity, justice were powerless in this behalf; but necessity 
was irresistible. And the result testifies how wisely the Republic acted. 
Without emancipation, followed by the arming of the slaves, rebel 
slavery would not have been overcome. With these the victory was 

"At last the same necessity which insisted first upon emancipation 
and then upon the arming of the slaves, insists with the same unan- 
swerable force upon the admission of the freedman to complete Equal- 
ity before the law, so that there shall be no ban of color in court-room 
or at the ballot-box, and government shall be fixed on its only rightful 
foundation — the consent of the governed. Reason, humanity, and jus- 
tice, all of which are clear for this admission of the freedman, may fail 


to move you; but you must yield to necessity, which now requires that 
these promises shall be performed. . . . 

"The freedman must be protected. To this you are specially pledged 
by the Proclamation of President Lincoln, which, after declaring him 
'free,' promises to maintain this freedom, not for any limited period, 
but for all time. But this cannot be done so long as you deny him the 
shield of impartial laws. Let him be heard in court and let him vote. 
Let these rights be guarded sacredly. Beyond even the shield of impar- 
tial laws, he will then have that protection which comes from the con- 
sciousness of manhood. Clad in the full panoply of citizenship he will 
feel at last that he is a man. At present he is only a recent chattel, 
awaiting your justice to be transmuted into manhood. If you would 
have him respected in his rights, you must begin by respecting him in 
your laws. If you would maintain him in his freedom, you must begin 
by maintaining him in the equal rights of citizenship. 

"Foremost is the equality of all men. Of course, in a declaration of 
rights, no such supreme folly was intended as that all men are created 
equal in form or capacity, bodily or mental; but simply that they are 
created equal in rights. This is the first of the self-evident truths that 
are announced, leading and governing all the rest. Life, liberty, and 
the pursuit of happiness are among inalienable rights; but they are all 
held in subordination to that primal truth. Here is the starting-point 
of the whole, and the end is like the starting-point. In announcing 
that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the gov- 
erned, the Declaration repeats again the same proclamation of Equal 
Rights. Thus is Equality the Alpha and the Omega, in which all other 
rights are embraced. Men may not have a natural right to certain 
things, but most clearly they have a natural right to impartial laws, 
by which they shall be secured in Equal Rights. Equality in rights is 
the first of rights. . . . 

"Taking the sum total of the population in the eleven states, we 
find 5,447,222 whites to 3,666,110 colored persons; and you are now to 
decide, whether in the discharge of your duties under the Constitution, 
and bound to guaranty a republican form of government, you will 
disfranchise this mighty mass, shutting them out from those Equal 
Rights promised by our fathers, and from all voice in the government 
of their country. They surpass in numbers by at least a million the 
whole population of the colonies at the time our fathers raised the 
cry, 'Taxation without Representation is Tyranny'; and now you are 
to decide whether you will strip them of representation while you sub- 
ject them to a grinding taxation by tariff and excise, acting directly 
and indirectly, which dwarfs into insignificance everything attempted 
by the British Parliament. . . . 


"Let me be understood. What I especially ask is impartial suffrage, 
which is, of course, embraced in universal suffrage. What is universal 
is necessarily impartial. For the present, I simply insist that all shall 
be equal before the law, so that, in the enjoyment of this right, there 
shall be no restriction which is not equally applicable to all. Any fur- 
ther question, in the nature of 'qualification,' belongs to another stage 
of debate. And yet I have no hesitation in saying that universal suf- 
frage is a universal right, subject only to such regulations as the safety 
of society may require. These may concern (1) age, (2) character, 
(3) registration, (4) residence. Nobody doubts that minors may be 
excluded, and so, also, persons of infamous life. Registration and resi- 
dence are both prudential requirements for the safeguard of the ballot- 
box against the Nomads and Bohemians of politics, and to compel the 
exercise of this franchise where a person is known among his neigh- 
bors and friends. Education also may, under certain circumstances, be 
a requirement of prudence, especially valuable in a Republic where 
so much depends on the intelligence of the people. These temporary 
restrictions do not in any way interfere with the rights of suffrage, for 
they leave it absolutely accessible to all. . . . 

"The ballot is a schoolmaster. Reading and writing are of inesti- 
mable value, but the ballot teaches what these cannot teach. It teaches 
manhood. Especially is it important to a race whose manhood has been 
denied. The work of redemption cannot be complete if the ballot is left 
in doubt. The freedman already knows his friends by the unerring in- 
stinct of the heart. Give him the ballot, and he will be educated into 
the principles of the government. Deny him the ballot, and he will 
continue an alien in knowledge as in rights. His claim is exceptional, 
as your injustice is exceptional. For generations you have shut him out 
from all education, making it a crime to teach him to read for himself 
the Book of Life. Let not the tyranny of the past be an apology for any 
further exclusion. . . . 

"Having pleaded for the freedman, I now plead for the Republic; 
for to each alike the ballot is a necessity. It is idle to expect any true 
peace while the freedman is robbed of this transcendent light and left 
a prey to that vengeance which is ready to wreak upon him the dis- 
appointment of defeat. The country, sympathetic with him, will be in 
a position of perpetual unrest. With him it will suffer and with him 
alone can it cease to suffer. Only through him can you redress the 
balance of our political system and assure the safety of patriot citizens. 
Only through him can you save the national debt from the inevitable 
repudiation which awaits it when recent rebels in conjunction with 
Northern allies once more bear sway. His is our best guarantee. Use 


him. He was once your fellow-soldier; he has always been your fellow- 
man. . . . 

"I speak today hoping to do something for my country, and espe- 
cially for that unhappy portion which has been arrayed in arms against 
us. The people there are my fellow-citizens, and gladly would I hail 
them, if they would permit it, as no longer a 'section,' no longer 'the 
South,' but an integral part of the Republic — under a Constitution 
which knows no North and no South and cannot tolerate any 'sec- 
tional' pretensions. Gladly do I offer my best efforts in all sincerity for 
their welfare. But I see clearly that there is nothing in the compass of 
mortal power so important to them in every respect, morally, politi- 
cally, and economically — that there is nothing with such certain prom- 
ise to them of beneficent results — there is nothing so sure to make 
their land smile with industry and fertility as the decree of Equal 
Rights which I now invoke. Let the decree go forth to cover them 
with blessings, sure to descend upon their children in successive gen- 
erations. They have given us war; we give them peace. They have 
raged against us in the name of Slavery. We send them back the bene- 
diction of Justice for all. They menace hate; we offer in return all the 
sacred charities of country together with oblivion of the past. This is 
our 'Measure for Measure.' This is our retaliation. This is our only 
revenge. . . . 

"In the fearful tragedy now drawing to a close there is a destiny, 
stern and irresistible as that of the Greek Drama, which seems to 
master all that is done, hurrying on the death of Slavery and its whole 
brood of sin. There is also a Christian Providence which watches this 
battle for right, caring especially for the poor and downtrodden who 
have no helper. The freedman still writhing under cruel oppression 
now lifts his voice to God the avenger. It is for us to save ourselves 
from righteous judgment. Never with impunity can you outrage 
human nature. Our country which is guilty still, is paying still the 
grievous penalty. Therefore by every motive of self-preservation we 
are summoned to be just. And thus is the cause associated indissolubly 
with the national life. . . . 

"Strike at the Black Code, as you have already struck at the Slave 
Code. There is nothing to choose between them. Strike at once; strike 
hard. You have already proclaimed Emancipation; proclaim Enfran- 
chisement also. And do not stultify yourselves by setting at naught the 
practical principle of the Fathers, that all just government stands only 
on the consent of the governed, and its inseparable corollary, that 
taxation without representation is tyranny. What was once true is true 
forever, although we may for a time lose sight of it, and this is the 


case with those imperishable truths to which you have been, alas! so 
indifferent. Thus far the work is only half done. . . . 

"According to the best testimony now, the population of the earth — 
embracing Caucasians, Mongolians, Malays, Africans, and Americans 
— is about thirteen hundred millions, of whom only three hundred and 
seventy-five millions are 'white men,' or little less than one-fourth, so 
that, in claiming exclusive rights for 'white men,' you degrade nearly 
three-quarters of the Human Family, made in the 'image of God' and 
declared to be of 'one blood,' while you sanction a Caste offensive to 
religion, an Oligarchy inconsistent with Republican Government, and 
a Monopoly which has the whole world as its footstool. 

"Against this assumption I protest with mind, soul, and heart. It is 
false in religion, false in statesmanship, and false in economy. It is an 
extravagance, which, if enforced, is foolish tyranny. Show me a crea- 
ture with erect countenance looking to heaven, made in the image of 
God, and I show you a man who, of whatever country or race, 
whether darkened by equatorial sun or blanched by northern cold, 
is with you a child of the heavenly father, and equal with you in title 
to all the rights of human nature." 

The second seer of democracy was Thaddeus Stevens. He was a 
man different entirely in method, education and thought from Charles 
Sumner. We know Stevens best when he was old and sick, and when 
with grim and awful courage he made the American Congress take 
the last step which it has ever taken towards democracy. Yet in one 
respect Stevens in his thought was even more realistic than Charles 
Sumner, although Sumner later followed him; from the first, Stevens 
knew that beneath all theoretical freedom and political right must lie 
the economic foundation. He said at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Septem- 
ber 7, 1865: 

"The whole fabric of Southern society must be changed, and it never 
can be done if this opportunity is lost. . . . How can republican in- 
stitutions, free schools, free churches, free social intercourse, exist in a 
mingled community of nabobs and serfs; of the owners of twenty 
thousand acre manors with lordly palaces and the occupants of nar- 
row huts inhabited by 'low white trash'? If the South is ever to be 
made a safe republic let her lands be cultivated by the toil of the own- 
ers or the free labor of intelligent citizens. This must be done even 
though it drives her nobility into exile! If they go, all the better. It 
will be hard to persuade the owner of ten thousand acres of land, who 
drives a coach and four, that he is not degraded by sitting at the same 
table or in the same pew, with the embrowned and hard-handed 
farmer who has himself cultivated his own thriving homestead of 150 
acres. The country would be well rid of the proud, bloated and defiant 


rebels. . . . The foundations of their institutions . . . must be broken 
up and relaid, or all our blood and treasure have been spent in vain." 4 

"He figured that there were in the rebel states four hundred sixty- 
five million acres of land. Of this three hundred ninety-four million 
acres were owned by 70,000 persons, each of whom possessed more 
than two hundred acres. He argued that these three hundred ninety 
four million acres ought to be confiscated by the government. To each 
adult freedman should be given forty acres which approximately would 
dispose of about forty million acres. The remaining three hundred 
fifty-four million acres, he would divide into suitable farms and sell to 
the highest bidder. Including city property it should bring an average 
price of ten dollars an acre, making a total of three billion five hun- 
dred forty million in six per cent bonds, the income of which should 
go towards the payment of pensions to the deserving veterans, and the 
widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors who had been killed in 
the war. Two hundred million dollars should be appropriated to re- 
imburse loyal men in both North and South whose property had been 
destroyed or damaged during the war. With the remaining three bil- 
lion, forty million dollars he would pay the national debt. Stevens 
argued that since all this property which has to be confiscated was 
owned by 70,000 persons, the vast majority of the people in the South 
would not be affected by this policy. These 70,000 were the arch- 
traitors and since they had caused an unjust war they should be made 
to suffer the consequences." 5 

Sumner, thinking along these lines, had hesitated. He said in June, 
1862, when confiscation first was broached: 

"I confess frankly that I look with more hope and confidence to 
liberation than to confiscation. To give freedom is nobler than to take 
property. . . . There is in confiscation, unless when directed against 
the criminal authors of the rebellion, a harshness inconsistent with 
that mercy which it is always a sacred duty to cultivate. . . . But lib- 
eration is not harsh; and it is certain, if properly conducted, to carry 
with it the smiles of a benignant Providence." 6 

Later, however, he began to see the economic demands of emancipa- 
tion and he wrote to John Bright, March 13, 1865: "Can emancipation 
be carried out without using the lands of the slave-masters? We must 
see that the freedmen are established on the soil, and that they may 
become proprietors. From the beginning I have regarded confiscation 
only as ancillary to emancipation. The great plantations, which have 
been so many nurseries of the rebellion, must be broken up, and the 
freedmen must have the pieces. It looks as if we were on the eve of 
another agitation. I insist that the rebel states shall not come back 
except on the footing of the Declaration of Independence, with all 


persons equal before the law, and government founded on the con- 
sent of the governed. In other words, there shall be no discrimination 
on account of color. If all whites vote, then must all blacks; but there 
shall be no limitation of suffrage for one more than for the other. It 
is sometimes said 'What! let the freedman, yesterday a slave, vote?' I 
am inclined to think that there is more harm in refusing than in con- 
ceding the franchise. It is said that they are as intelligent as the Irish 
just arrived; but the question has become immensely practical in this 
respect: Without their votes we cannot establish stable governments 
in the Rebel States. Their votes are as necessary as their muskets; of 
this I am satisfied. Without them, the old enemy will reappear, and 
under the forms of law take possession of the governments, choose 
magistrates and officers, and in alliance with the Northern Democracy, 
put us all in peril again, postpone the day of tranquillity, and menace 
the national credit by assailing the national debt. To my mind, the 
nation is now bound by self-interest — ay, self-defense — to be thoroughly 
just. The Declaration of Independence has pledges which have never 
been redeemed. We must redeem them, at least as regards the rebel 
states which have fallen under our jurisdiction. Mr. Lincoln is slow 
in accepting truths. I have reminded him that if he would say the 
word we might settle this question promptly and rightly. He hesitates. 
Meanwhile I feel it my duty to oppose his scheme of government in 
Louisiana, which for the present is defeated in Congress." 7 

Stevens' declaration found few echoes. Senator Wade of Ohio was 
the only one who blazed a further path toward industrial democracy. 
He "declared in public meetings that after the abolition of slavery, a 
radical change in the relations of capital and of property in land is 
next upon the order of the day." And Wade added frankly that this 
democratic movement of freedom and power for men was easily con- 
fused in men's minds with the older slogans of freedom for trade and 

"There is no doubt," he also remarked, "that if by an insurrection 
[the colored people] could contrive to slay one half their oppressors, 
the other half would hold them in the highest respect and no doubt 
treat them with justice." 

All of this simply increased Industry's fear of Western radicalism 
and was regarded as advocacy of industrial revolution. These were the 
demands of the extreme leaders of abolition-democracy; leaders like 
Phillips and Douglass agreed with the demand for the ballot. Wendell 
Phillips said at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery 
Society in 1865: 

"Our philosophy of government since the Fourth day of July, 1776, 
is that no class is safe, no freedom is real, no emancipation is effectual 


which does not place in the hands of the man himself the power to 
protect his own rights. That is the genius of American Institutions. 

"The Negro must be given the franchise because we have no other 
timber to build states with, and unless we build with him, we must 
postpone reconstruction for so many years, that the very patronage of 
territorial government would swamp republican institutions. Keep 
them territories, let the democracy come in eight years or four, with 
the money power of this bank system in one hand and territorial 
government in the other, and republican government will be almost 
a failure." 

At a Tremont Temple meeting in Boston, it was "Resolved, That 
since the denial of rights to black men was the cause of the disruption 
of the Union, their enfranchisement and free equality before the law 
must be the cornerstone of the Reconstruction." 

Douglass said, "I am for the 'immediate, unconditional and uni- 
versal' enfranchisement of the black man, in every state in the Union. 
Without this his liberty is a mockery; without this, you might as well 
almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition; for, in fact, if 
he is not the slave of the industrial master, he is the slave of society, 
and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right. He is at the mercy 
of the mob, and has no means of protecting himself." 

Not all Abolitionists agreed, however; Garrison in the Liberator re- 
fused to demand immediate enfranchisement. He said, in 1864, in reply 
to an English critic, "When was it ever known that liberation from 
bondage was accompanied by a recognition of political equality ? Chat- 
tels personal may be instantly translated from the auction-block into 
freemen; but when were they ever taken at the same time to the ballot- 
box, and invested with all political rights and immunities? According 
to the laws of development and progress, it is not practicable. To de- 
nounce or complain of President Lincoln for not disregarding public 
sentiment, and not flying in the face of these laws, is hardly just. Be- 
sides, I doubt whether he has the constitutional right to decide this 
matter. Ever since this government was organized, the right of suf- 
frage has been determined by each state in the Union for itself, so that 
there is no uniformity in regard to it. In some free states, colored citi- 
zens are allowed to vote; in others, they are not. It is always a state, 
never a national matter. 

"Nor, if the freed blacks were admitted to the polls by Presidential 
fiat, do I see any permanent advantage likely to be secured by it; for, 
submitted to as a necessity at the outset, as soon as the state was or- 
ganized and left to manage its own affairs, the white population, with 
their superior intelligence, wealth, and power, would unquestionably 
alter the franchise in accordance with their prejudices, and exclude 


those thus summarily brought to the polls. Coercion would gain noth- 
ing. In other words — as in your own country — universal suffrage will 
be hard to win and to hold without general preparation of feeling and 
sentiment. But it will come, both at the South and with you; yet only 
by a struggle on the part of the disfranchised, and a growing convic- 
tion of its justice, 'in the good time coming.' With the abolition of 
slavery in the South, prejudice or 'colorphobia,' the natural product of 
the system, will gradually disappear — as in the case of your West In- 
dian colonies — and black men will win their way to wealth, distinc- 
tion, eminence, and official station. I ask only a charitable judgment of 
President Lincoln respecting this matter, whether in Louisiana or any 
other state." 8 

Here was sound political argument but unsound economics based 
on the American Assumption of wealth through thrift, applied to 
slaves, where Thaddeus Stevens alone knew it could not be applied. 
Nevertheless the demand for Negro suffrage grew, chiefly because of 
the necessity of implementing emancipation and making Negro free- 
dom real. The New York Times said in April, 1865: 

"Nobody, we believe, wishes to keep any Southern state under dis- 
abilities simply as punishment. Mr. Sumner, himself, probably does 
not want to transform the Southern states into territories for any such 
object. The real concern herein is whether the Southern states, if re- 
stored at once to their full state rights, would not abuse them by an 
oppression of the black race. This race has rendered an assistance to 
the government in times of danger that entitles them to its benign care. 
The government cannot, without the worst dishonor, permit the bond- 
age of the black man to be continued in any form. It is bound by every 
moral principle, as well as every prudential consideration, not to remit 
him to the tender mercies of an enemy. But it is to be hoped that the 
Southern people will understand that the interests of both races re- 
quire a just relation between them and that they will secure this by a 
prompt change of their state constitution and laws." 

The New York Tribune laid down seven points in May, 1865: 

"1. Everyone must realize that the blacks will not emigrate but stay 
in America. 

"2. The blacks may not be spared, for their labor makes land valu- 
able, and the land may not be spared. 

"3. Fair pay for fair work is a sine qua non. 

"4. Education for freedmen. 

"5. With education comes self-elevation, and the desire to deny him 
the vote will disappear. 

"6. However, white men who are ignorant and vicious, vote. Suf- 
frage for blacks regardless of this ignorance. 


"7. Fidelity to the political creed of the nation to secure the happi- 
ness of all." 

Later, Horace Greeley said: "We would consent to submit to the 
suffrage only those who could read and write or those who pay taxes 
or are engaged in some trade. Any standard which could limit the 
voting privilege to the competent and deserving would be agreeable 
to us." He adds, "The Abolitionists are most anxious that political 
rights, and especially the right of self-protection by suffrage, shall be 
accorded to the freedmen of the South; and waiving all questions of 
power, they would gladly prefer that such extension of suffrage be 
accorded by, rather than imposed on, Southern whites. They cannot 
realize that hanging some of the late insurgents as rebels and traitors 
will dispose the survivors toward according the elective franchise even 
to the most capable of emancipated blacks. In fact the obstacles to such 
extension of suffrage are many and formidable — they are not to be 
surmounted (though many act as though they could) by a mere order 
from the War Department, nor even by an act of Congress." 9 

The most popular argument for Negro suffrage was that of Carl 

"It would seem that the interference of the national authority in the 
home concerns of the Southern states would be rendered less neces- 
sary, and the whole problem of political and social reconstruction be 
made simplified, if, while the masses lately arrayed against the govern- 
ment are permitted to vote, the large majority of those who were al- 
ways loyal, and are naturally anxious to see the free labor problem 
successfully solved, were not excluded from all influence upon legis- 
lation. In all questions concerning the Union, the national debt, and 
the future social organization of the South, the feelings of the colored 
man are naturally in sympathy with the views and aims of the na- 
tional government. And while the Southern whites fought against the 
Union, the Negro did all he could to aid it; while the Southern white 
sees in the national government his conqueror, the Negro sees in it 
his protector; while the white owes to the national debt his defeat, the 
Negro owes to it his deliverance; while the white considers himself 
robbed and ruined by the emancipation of the slaves, the Negro finds 
in it the assurance of future prosperity and happiness. In all the im- 
portant issues the Negro would be led by natural impulse to forward 
the ends of the government, and by making his influence, as part of 
the voting body, tell upon the legislation of the states, render the in- 
terference of the national authority less necessary. 

"As the most difficult of the pending questions are intimately con- 
nected with the status of the Negro in Southern society, it is obvious 
that a correct solution can be more easily obtained if he has a voice in 


the matter. In the right to vote, he would find the best permanent 
protection against oppressive class-legislation, as well as against indi- 
vidual persecution. The relations between the white and black races 
even if improved by the gradual wearing off of the present animosi- 
ties, are likely to remain long under the troubling influence of preju- 

"It is a notorious fact that the rights of a man of some political 
power are far less exposed to violations than those of one who is, in 
matters of public interest, completely subject to the will of others. A 
voter is a man of influence; small as that influence may be in the 
single individual, it becomes larger when that individual belongs to a 
numerous class of voters who are ready to make common cause with 
him for the protection of his rights. Such an individual is an object 
of interest to the political parties that desire to have the benefits of his 
ballot. It is true, the bringing face to face at the ballot box of the white 
and the black races may here and there lead to an outbreak of feeling, 
and the first trials ought certainly to be made while the national power 
is still there to prevent or repress disturbances; but the practice once 
successfully inaugurated under the protection of that power, it would 
probably be more apt than anything else to obliterate old antagonisms, 
especially if the colored people — which is probable, as soon as their 
own rights are sufficiently secured — divide their votes between the 
different political parties. 

"The effect of the extension of the franchise to the colored people 
upon the development of free labor and upon the security of human 
rights in the South being the principal object in view, the objections 
raised on the ground of the ignorance of the freedman become unim- 
portant. Practical liberty is a good school, and, besides, if any qualifi- 
cation can be found, applicable to both races, which does not interfere 
with the attainment of the main object, such qualification would in 
that respect be unobjectionable. But it is idle to say that it will be time 
to speak of Negro suffrage when the whole colored race will be edu- 
cated, for the ballot may be necessary to him to secure his education. 
It is also idle to say that ignorance is the principal ground upon which 
Southern men object to Negro suffrage, for if it were, that numerous 
class of colored people in Louisiana who are as highly educated, as 
intelligent and as wealthy as any corresponding class of whites, would 
have been enfranchised long ago. 

"It has been asserted that the Negro would be but a voting machine 
in the hand of his employer. On this point opinions seem to differ. I 
have heard it said in the South that the freedmen are more likely to 
be influenced by their schoolmasters and preachers. But even if we 
suppose the employer to control to a certain extent the Negro laborer's 


vote, two things are to be taken into consideration: i. The class of 
employers or landed proprietors will in a few years be very different 
from what it was heretofore; in consequence of the general breaking 
up, a great many of the old slaveholders will be obliged to give up 
their lands and new men will step into their places; and 2. The em- 
ployer will hardly control the vote of the Negro laborer so far as to 
make him vote against his own liberty. The beneficial effect of an 
extension of suffrage does not always depend upon the intelligence 
with which the newly admitted voters exercise their right, but some- 
times upon the circumstances in which they are placed; and the cir- 
cumstances in which the freedmen of the South are placed are such 
that when they only vote for their own liberty and rights, they vote 
for the rights of free labor, for the success of an immediate important 
reform, for the prosperity of the country, and for the general interests 
of mankind. If, therefore, in order to control the colored voter, the 
employer or whoever he may be, is first obliged to concede to the 
freedman the great point of his own rights as a man and a free la- 
borer, the great social reform is completed, the most difficult problem 
is solved, and all other questions it will be comparatively easy to settle. 

"In discussing the matter of Negro suffrage, I deemed it my duty 
to confine myself strictly to the practical aspects of the subject. I have, 
therefore, not touched its moral merits nor discussed the question 
whether the national government is competent to enlarge the elective 
franchise in the states lately in rebellion by its own act. 

"I deem it proper, however, to offer a few remarks on the assertion 
frequently put forth that the franchise is likely to be extended to the 
colored man by the voluntary action of the Southern whites them- 
selves. My observation leads me to a contrary opinion. Aside from a 
very few enlightened men, I found but one class of people in favor of 
the enfranchisement of the blacks: it was the class of Unionists who 
found themselves politically ostracized and looked upon the enfran- 
chisement of the loyal Negroes as the salvation of the whole loyal 
element. But their numbers and influence are sadly insufficient to se- 
cure such a result. The masses are strongly opposed to colored suf- 
frage; anybody that dares to advocate it is stigmatized as a dangerous 
fanatic; nor do I deem it probable that in the ordinary course of 
things, prejudices will wear off to such an extent as to make it a 
popular measure. Outside of Louisiana, only one gentleman who oc- 
cupied a prominent political position in the South expressed to me an 
opinion favorable to it. He declared himself ready to vote for an 
amendment to the constitution of his state bestowing the right of 
suffrage upon all male citizens without distinction of color, who could 
furnish evidence of their ability to read and write, without, however, 


disfranchising those who are now voters and are not able to fulfill 
that condition. This gentleman is now a member of one of the state 
conventions, but I presume he will not risk his political standing in 
the South by moving such an amendment in that body. 

"The only manner in which, in my opinion, the Southern people 
can be induced to grant to the freedman some measure of self-protect- 
ing power in the form of suffrage is to make it a condition precedent 
to 'readmission.' 

"Practical attempts on the part of the Southern people to deprive the 
Negro of his rights as a freeman may result in bloody collisions, and 
will certainly plunge Southern society into restless fluctuations and 
anarchical confusion. Such evils can be prevented only by continuing 
the control of the national government in the states lately in rebellion, 
until free labor is fully developed and firmly established, and the ad- 
vantages and blessings of the new order of things have disclosed them- 
selves. This desirable result will be hastened by a firm declaration on 
the part of the government that national control in the South will not 
cease until such results are secured. Only in this way can that security 
be established in the South which will render numerous immigration 
possible, and such immigration would materially aid a favorable de- 
velopment of things. 

"The solution of the problem would be very much facilitated by 
enabling all the loyal and free-labor elements in the South to exercise 
a healthy influence upon legislation. It will hardly be possible to se- 
cure the freedman against oppressive class legislation and private per- 
secution unless he be endowed with a certain measure of political 

"As to the future peace and harmony of the Union, it is of the 
highest importance that the people lately in rebellion be not permit- 
ted to build up another 'peculiar institution' whose spirit is in conflict 
with the fundamental principles of our political system; for as long 
as they cherish interests peculiar to them in preference to those they 
have in common with the rest of the American people, their loyalty to 
the Union will always be uncertain. 

"I desire not to be understood as saying that there are no well- 
meaning men among those who were comprised in the rebellion. 
There are many, but none of these in number nor in influence are 
strong enough to control the manifest tendency of the popular spirit. 
There are great reasons for hope that a determined policy on the part 
of the national government will produce innumerable and valuable 
conversions. This consideration counsels leniency as to persons, such 
as is demanded by the human and enlightened spirit of our times, and 
vigor and firmness in the carrying out of principles such as are de- 


manded by the national sense of justice and the exigencies of our situ- 
ation." 10 

The inevitable result of the Civil War eventually had to be the en- 
franchisement of the laboring class, black and white, in the South. It 
could not, as the South clamored to make it, result in the mere legal- 
istic freeing of the slaves. On the other hand, it would not go as far 
as economic emancipation for which Stevens and the freedmen clam- 
ored, because the industrial North instinctively recoiled from this and 
the Northern white working man himself had not achieved such eco- 
nomic emancipation. The politically enfranchised slave was accused, 
as every laboring class has been, of ignorance and bad manners, of 
poverty and crime. And when he tried to go to school and tried to 
imitate the manners of his brothers, and demanded real economic 
emancipation through ownership of land and right to use capital, 
there arose the bitter shriek of property, and the charge of corruption 
and theft was added to that of ignorance and poverty, just as we have 
seen in our day in the case of Russia. 

Democracy, that inevitable end of all government, faces eternal 
paradox. In all ages, the vast majority of men have been ignorant and 
poor, and any attempt to arm such classes with political power brings 
the question: Can Ignorance and Poverty rule? If they try to rule, 
their success in the nature of things must be halting and spasmodic, 
if not absolutely nil; and it must incur the criticism and raillery of the 
wise and the well-to-do. On the other hand, if the poor, unlettered 
toilers are given no political power, and are kept by exploitation in 
poverty, they will remain submerged unless rescued by revolution; and 
a philosophy will prevail, teaching that the submergence of the mass 
is inevitable and is on the whole best, not only for them, but for the 
ruling classes. 

In all this argument there is seldom a consideration of the possibility 
that the great mass of people may become intelligent, with incomes 
that insure a decent standard of living. In such case, no one could 
deny the right and inevitableness of democracy. And in the meantime, 
in bridging the road from ignorance and poverty to intelligence and 
an income sufficient for civilization, the real power must be in some- 
one's hands. Shall this power be a dictatorship for the benefit of the 
rich, the cultured and the fortunate? This is the basic problem of 
democracy and it was discussed before the people of the United States 
in unusual form directly after the Civil War. It was a test of the na- 
tion's real belief in democratic institutions. And the fact that the ideal 
of abolition-democracy carried the nation as far as it did in the mat- 
ter of Negro suffrage must always be a source of intense gratification 
for those who believe in humanity and justice. 


"In a republic the people precede their government. Throughout 
the war the people demanded more stringent and more energetic meas- 
ures than the administration was prepared to adopt. They called for 
emancipation before it was proclaimed; for a Freedmen's Bureau be- 
fore it was organized; for a Civil Rights bill before it was passed; and 
for impartial suffrage before it was finally, by act of Congress, secured. 
In the history of emancipation the voluntary activities of a portion of 
the people in benevolent, philanthropic and Christian effort preceded, 
prepared for, and helped to produce that governmental action which 
has largely contributed to the present condition and well-grounded 
hopes of the colored people." n 

The reports on conditions in the South gained wide currency and 
had great influence. Salmon P. Chase, Whitelaw Reid, Carl Schurz, 
all supported with views and logic the prevailing trend of abolition- 
democracy. In the South itself, long before there was any unanimity 
in the North on the subject of Negro suffrage or signs of pressure, the 
question of votes for Negroes came to the front. It was first precipi- 
tated by the proposed Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. De- 
cember 14, 1863, Ashley of Ohio had introduced into the House an 
amendment prohibiting slavery, and Wilson of Iowa introduced a 
similar amendment. Both were referred, but not discussed until five 
months after their introduction. Four other similar amendments were 
introduced in the House during the season. 

In the Senate, January 11, 1864, Henderson of Missouri introduced 
an amendment to abolish slavery, which was referred. A few days 
later, Charles Sumner submitted a joint resolution against slavery. 
The committee preferred Henderson's resolution. The Border State 
men were especially opposed and Garrett Davis of Kentucky made 
long and fiery speeches and offered eight amendments. Senator Powell 
of Kentucky also offered various amendments. 

A proposed Thirteenth Amendment finally passed the Senate April 
8, 1863, by a vote of 36-6. It was considered in the House the last day 
of May. On June 15, it was approved by a vote of 95-66, but this was 
less than the necessary two-thirds majority. 

Meantime, Lincoln had been reelected, receiving 2,216,067 out of 
4,011,413 votes; Maryland had abolished slavery, and there was a move- 
ment for abolition throughout the Border States. At the second session 
of the 38th Congress, the President urged the passage of the Thir- 
teenth Amendment. On January 31, 1865, Ashley called the proposed 
Thirteenth Amendment for reconsideration. Eleven Democrats de- 
serted their leader and enabled the resolution to pass, on January 
31, 1865. 

Blaine said: "When the announcement was made, the Speaker be- 


came powerless to preserve order. The members upon the Republican 
side sprang upon their seats cheering, shouting, and waving hands, 
hats, and canes, while the spectators upon the floor and in the galleries 
joined heartily in the demonstrations. Upon the restoration of order, 
Mr. Ingersoll of Illinois rose and said, 'Mr. Speaker, in honor of this 
immortal and sublime event, I move that this House do now ad- 
journ.' " 12 This amendment was signed by the President and sub- 
mitted to the states. On December 18, 1865, it was declared adopted 
by the Secretary of State. 

The Amendment carried an unusual provision in Section II which 
asserted: "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by ap- 
propriate legislation." Charles Sumner and others declared that this 
gave Congress power to enfranchise Negroes if such a step was neces- 
sary to their freedom. The South took cognizance of this argument. Of 
the states which seceded, Virginia and Louisiana ratified the Thir- 
teenth Amendment in February, 1865, and Arkansas in April. All of 
these states were at the time in the control of minorities supported by 
the Union armies, and strong pressure was exerted on them by the 
administration in Washington. 

In November, 1865, South Carolina ratified with this proviso: 

"That any attempt by Congress towards legislating upon the politi- 
cal status of former slaves, or their civil relations, would be contrary 
to the Constitution of the United States as it now is, or as it would be 
altered by the proposed amendment; is in conflict with the policy of 
the President, declared in his amnesty proclamation, and with the 
restoration of that harmony upon which depend the vital interests of 
the American Union." 13 

Alabama ratified the Amendment the same month with this pro- 

"That this amendment to the Constitution of the United States is 
adopted by the Legislature of Alabama with the understanding that 
it does not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the 
political status of freedmen in this State." 14 

North Carolina and Georgia ratified in December just before the 
amendment was proclaimed. Mississippi refused ratification until after 
the Amendment was in force. Florida ratified it with the Alabama 
reservations. Texas did not ratify until 1870. It is difficult to see in these 
proceedings any indication that the South was willing to abolish slav- 
ery and certainly there was not the slightest indication of granting any 
Negro political rights. 

In South Carolina, "the assembly shunned all suggestions that suf- 
frage be given the Negro in any form." When a number of Charles- 


ton Negroes prepared a memorial on this, the convention refused 
to hear it. "It cannot but be the earnest desire of all members," said the 
Charleston Daily Courier, "that the matter be ignored in toto during 
the session. . . . The white democracy, especially that of the up- 
country, felt that a restricted suffrage which took no account of racial 
discriminations would disfranchise a large portion of the white vote 
and give the large landowners an unfair influence through their con- 
trol of Negro votes. . . ." "It may safely be said," wrote the Columbia 
correspondent of the Charleston Daily Courier, "that the views and 
opinions of Sumner, Thad Stevens, Wilson, and some other Northern 
Radicals have been considered too unworthy to be seriously com- 
mented upon by the members of the convention. It is well known 
that the sentiments of those gentlemen are extremely unpopular in 
the North." 15 

Universally, the South was reported as adamant on the subject of 
Negroes voting. "That is not a question they even allow themselves 
to debate. They consider it too monstrous a proposition even to de- 
bate. That is one of the things they imagine they will never submit 
to. They will suffer confiscation and everything before they will en- 
dure the degradation." 16 

Governor Walker of Florida said in his inaugural speech: "Each 
one of us knows that we could not give either an honest or conscien- 
tious assent to Negro suffrage. There is not one of us that would not 
feel that he was doing wrong, and bartering his self-respect, his con- 
science and his duty to his country and to the Union itself, for the ben- 
efits he might hope to obtain by getting back into the Union. Much as 
I worship the Union, and much as I would rejoice to see my State 
once more recognized as a member thereof, yet it is better, a thousand 
times better, that she should remain out of the Union, even as one of 
her subjugated provinces, than go back, 'eviscerated of her manhood,' 
despoiled of her honor, recreant of her duty, without her self-respect, 
and of course without the respect of the balance of mankind — a miser- 
able thing, with seeds of moral and political death in herself, soon to 
be communicated to all her associates." 17 

Judge Underwood of Virginia reports a candid gentleman of Alex- 
andria talking to him in friendly conversation: 

" 'Sooner than see the colored people raised to a legal and political 
equality, the Southern people would prefer their total annihilation.' 
I had regarded him as well informed and almost as candid a man as 
we have among the Rebels." 18 Grattan, a native of Virginia, said Feb- 
bruary 10, 1866: 

"I believe that if the blacks are left to themselves, if all foreign in- 
fluence were taken away, the whites would control their votes. It is 


not in that the difficulty lies, but it is in the repugnance which the 
white race would feel to that sort of political equality. It is the same 
sort of repugnance which a man feels toward a snake. He does not 
feel any animosity to the snake, but there is a natural shrinking from 
it." 19 He thought that any attempt to give the Negroes a vote would 
lead to their extermination. 

In all this reported opposition to Negro suffrage, the grounds given 
were racial and social animosity, and never the determination of land 
and capital to restrict the political power of labor. Yet this last reason 
was the fundamental one. 

While the South was in suspense, and the abolition-democracy was 
slowly debating and crystallizing opinion, industry in the North was 
forging forward with furious intensity; and this movement was fore- 
most and predominant in the mind and vision of living persons in 
that day. During the war, business prospered. There were few failures 
and the inflated currency increased prices and favored business profits; 
while, on the other hand, it decreased real wages and the income of 
farmers. Wealth became concentrated among the manufacturers, mer- 
chants, the financiers and the speculators. There was, consequently, a 
large accumulation of capital for investment in new business enter- 
prises; industrial development was hastened. Inventions and technical 
improvements increased. Plants became larger and more efficient; steel 
manufacture became the basis of modern industry and developed rap- 
idly because of the demands of war. The metal industry, thus ex- 
panded, turned to the production of peace goods. The war itself called 
for more efficiency and larger plants and consolidation of plants. 

The freeing of the nation from the strangling hands of oligarchy in 
the South freed not only black men but white men, not only human 
spirit, but business enterprise all over the land. This happened in sur- 
prising ways. Quite naturally, and logically, under the stress of war, 
national and local taxes rose and rose and rose yet again, forcing the 
whole community and nation to pay for things formerly paid for by 
individuals. First, necessary money was provided by taxing imports; 
then, to encourage local manufacturers of goods that must be had for 
war; thus by imperceptible transition, the nation was taxed to support 
manufacturers. The South had forced down the tariff until in 1857 
there was practically free trade. Northern manufacturers during the 
war pressed for higher tariff rates. Taxes on imported goods were the 
easiest method of raising money. The tariff acts of 1862-1864 raised the 
average rates of taxation to 37.2% and 47%. And since then the tariff 
rates have been raised higher and higher so as to foster industrial 

The industrialists were not without scientific support. Henry Carey, 


the American economist, published his "Principles of Social Science" 
in 1858-1859. He attacked free trade and joined the German Liszt in 
a demand for a self-contained national economy. Carey sought to show 
the beneficial effects that the proximity of protected industry would 
have upon agriculture. Thus in the name of the new national spirit, 
came "America for Americans" as a great and self-sufficing farming 
and manufacturing country. 

We emerged, therefore, from the war with a tremendous industry, 
over-organized, but efficient in many directions through the exigencies 
and demands of war. Two things beckoned further; first, the discov- 
ery and realization of the extraordinary natural resources of America, 
its iron, coal and oil, its forests, and of course raw materials like wool, 
sugar and cotton; secondly, a unified and wonderful system of trans- 
portation. The nation borrowed three billion dollars for war and paid 
heavy interest because of the price of gold. The money borrowed by 
the government had to be spent and spent quickly without delibera- 
tion, without careful decision. Contractors and managers, therefore, 
who furnished goods to the government could make, legally and il- 
legally, fabulous sums. The prosperity which thus came to them had to 
be passed on in part to the workers, who received higher wages, and 
who, despite the increased cost of living, had money to spend freely. 
Boom times were on. There was plenty of money for investment and 
plenty of chances for investment. Speculation ran riot. The whole 
moral fabric of the country was changed, not simply by the blood and 
cruelty, hate and destruction, of war, but by the prospects of a golden 
future. We are told that when the Secretary of the Treasury visited 
New York early in 1864, he found business men interested not in the 
blood of battle but in the stock market. Workers and foreigners caught 
the fever and naturally enough held the South to blame for the past. 
Had not the South held up the distribution of the Western lands since 
1845 against the protest of Northern farmers and new immigrants; 
against Southern poor whites led by Andrew Johnson, and with sym- 
pathy on the part of the managers and hirers of labor of the North? 
Early in the war, the Homestead Law was passed and threw open the 
Western lands to settlers on easy terms. The new farmers and the new 
immigrant laborers were scarcely aware when this land was given 
mostly to railroads to help finance them, and then sold to farmers at 
prices which made profitable farming increasingly difficult. They saw 
agricultural prices rising; they expected them, of course, to continue 
to rise. 

Railways in the United States increased from three miles in 1828 to 
23,476 miles in i860, 30,283 miles in 1870, and over 50,000 miles in 
1880. The railroads had been financed by selling bonds abroad before 


the war and after the war by large increases in domestic capital in- 
vested. Gifts of public lands were showered upon the railway builders, 
amounting to half the farm area opened by the Homestead Act. Great 
railway systems began to be consolidated, and through them popula- 
tion drifted to the cities. 

Especially did industry begin to fear the unrest in the West after 
the war. The West was uneasy. It became more uneasy on account of 
the land distribution to the railroads, the high and discriminatory rail- 
road rates, the whole money situation, and the taxation. Finance and 
industry, therefore, after the war, while it looked forward confidently 
to tremendous industrial development, was wary. It proposed to pro- 
tect itself. There was going to be no new free trade, no agricultural 
bloc, no drives for cheap money, no state intervention in industry. 
The new national development, protected from foreign competition, 
must be protected from state intervention. Otherwise state control of 
railroads and industries, state taxation and regulation, would reduce 
the United States to a series of small exclusive industrial territories 
instead of one vast market. 

All this thought and development went on with little attention to 
the social or political results of the war. But soon attention had to be 
given to these matters. Although industry was now in control of the 
national government, the Republican party which represented it was 
a minority party; and Northern and Southern Democrats, especially 
Southern Democrats with increased power by counting the full Negro 
population, together with Western malcontents, could easily oust the 
Republicans. It was because of this thought that Northern industry 
made its great alliance with abolition-democracy. The consummation 
of this alliance came slowly and reluctantly and after vain effort to- 
ward understanding with the South which was unsuccessful until 

When Lincoln first laid down his general proclamation concerning 
Reconstruction, industry paid little attention to it: let the South come 
back; let it come back quickly, and let us go to work and make money 
and repair the losses of the war by increased business; and then let 
the nation go far beyond this through domination of the American 
market, and perhaps even of the markets of the world. 

However, right here the dreams of the industrialists were quickly 
shadowed by unwelcome reflections. In the harsh voices of certain 
leading citizens of the South, who were about to return to Congress, 
there was something of that same arrogance that had cowed the North 
in days gone by. What these voices said concerning Negroes and, in- 
deed, concerning slavery, was of little importance to industry; but if 
they proposed to come back with increased political power, would this 


mean a drive for free trade? Would it mean a drive against the na- 
tional banks? Would it mean an attempt to readjust and tax the im- 
mense profit made in the rise of the national debt? Beyond this, could 
it be that the new South was set upon some move to make the whole 
country assume all or part of the Confederate debt and pay for eman- 
cipated slaves? Perhaps not, but this was something to watch. State 
economic rights must be curbed. Southern opposition to finance and 
the tariff must be kept in bounds. Very soon, then, the party which 
represented sound money — that is, the payment of interest on depre- 
ciated currency at the same rate as though it had been gold — and who 
wanted Federal control of industry, began to see the necessity of con- 
solidating their political power. 

This point of view of industry began to be expressed frankly. 
Brewer of Newport wrote Sumner: "In a selfish point of view free 
suffrage to the blacks is desirable. Without their support, Southerners 
will certainly again unite, and there is too much reason to fear success- 
fully, with the Democrats of the North, and the long train of evils sure 
to follow their rule is fearful to contemplate ... a great reduction of 
the tariff doing away with its protective feature — perhaps free trade to 
culminate with repudiation . . . and how sweet and complete will be 
the revenge of the former if they can ruin the North by free trade and 

The most selfish argument was made by Elizur Wright of Boston 
in 1865. He said that it would take years of military subjugation to 
educate the white South out of its rebel propensities so that a majority 
of it could be relied on for loyal state government. In the meantime two 
things would happen: "1st. The public debt would accumulate, for a 
military occupation never pays as it goes. 2nd. The blacks are largely 
trained to arms, for they are the cheapest and best troops we can have 
under the circumstances. Hence, when we arrive at the period when 
loyal state governments — that will go alone — can be set up, the blacks 
must be enfranchised or they will be ready and willing to fight for a 
government of their own; and here is more war, and more public debt, 
and more taxation. 

"If the Southern states are brought back in too soon the North 
would either have to pay the rebel debt or borrow the rebel theory and 
secede from the very Union that had been restored by conquering the 

"There is only one way to avoid this and make our victory imme- 
diately fruitful. In two states, a decided majority of the population is 
black, and, by necessity, loyal. In five others, the black element is more 
than one-third; and it is strong enough to make an effective balance of 
power in every state where the rebellious element is of any serious 


magnitude. Again, the particular chivalry which got up and engineered 
the rebellion has such an honor of sharing political power with its 
former chattels that when the enfranchisement of the blacks is deter- 
mined on as the sine qua non of Reconstruction, and its own military 
power is overthrown, it will emigrate to a more congenial political 
atmosphere. We have then nothing to do but convert whites enough 
to make a majority when added to the enfranchised blacks, to have 
state governments that can be trusted to stand alone. I think I could 
easily convince any man, who does not allow his prejudices to stand in 
the way of his interests, that it will probably make a difference of at 
least $1,000,000,000 in the development of the national debt, whether we 
reconstruct on the basis of loyal white and black votes, or on white 
votes exclusively, and that he can better afford to give the government 
at least one-quarter of his estate than have it try the latter experiment. 

"I am not disputing about tastes. A Negro's ballot may be more 
vulgar than his bullet. Being already in for it, the question with me is, 
how the one or the other can be made to protect my property from 
taxation; and I am sure I would rather give away half the little I 
have, than to have the victories of 1865 thrown away, as I am sure they 
will be, if, endeavoring to keep the South in subjugation by black 
armies, the government allows 4,000,000 of black population to con- 
tinue disfranchised." 

Thus industry between 1 860-1 870 was in control of the government 
but was insecure. The Republican party which represented it was a 
minority party, and if Northern and Southern Democrats had been 
able to unite with the disaffected West, the Republicans would have 
been swept out of power. But the Republican party, united with 
abolition-democracy and using their tremendous moral power and 
popularity, their appeal to freedom, democracy and the uplift of man- 
kind, might buttress the threatened fortress of the new industry. And 
finally in extremity, votes for Negroes would save the day. Thus a 
movement, which began primarily and sincerely to abolish slavery and 
insure the Negroes' rights, became coupled with a struggle of capitalism 
to retain control of the government as against Northern labor and 
Southern and Western agriculture. 

The union of these two points of view is seen in an Ohio pamphlet 
then current. "What is to be done with six millions of rebels? What 
shall be done with four million blacks? 

"1. Loyal white men only shall vote. 

"2. Loyal white men and rebels, except certain classes, shall vote. 

"3. Loyal men, white and black, shall vote. 

"4. Loyal men, white and black, and as many of the rebels as can be 
controlled by loyal voters, shall vote. 


"5. Educational standards. 

"6. Segregation of whites and blacks. The blacks to be in one terri- 
tory with full rights to vote. 

"7. Rebel states to be held by military power until the rebels have 
purged themselves. 

"In the first plan, 1,200,000 voters in the rebel states will have as 
much voting power as two million voters in the North. Under the 
second plan before the Rebellion, the South, with six million whites, 
boasted as much political power as 8,400,000 of the North. By this 
second plan, 6,000,000 would possess the power of 10,000,000 of the 
North. By the third plan, one voter in the South would have more 
voting power than two voters in the North. Under the fourth plan, 
the uneducated blacks are almost the only friends of the government, 
while the educated whites are all wrong. This illustrates the folly of 
an educational standard. Under the sixth plan, the whites forced the 
mixing of the races of the country, and those men who have been 
raised on Negro milk, and some of them who have children by Negro 
mothers, should not talk about separation." 

Slowly the rank and file of the nation began to respond to the com- 
bined argument of industrialists and Abolitionists, especially as their 
seeming unity of purpose increased. A correspondent of the New York 
Tribune writes in 1865 from the South: 

"The freed people are truly and unreservedly our friends, and they 
are almost the only ones. They are more intelligent as a class, and 
more available as a trustworthy material for citizenship, than I ex- 
pected to find them. The poor whites whom I saw are decidedly in- 
ferior to the average of the slave population. If there is to be for the 
future a stable basis for loyal states in the South, it must be made up 
largely of the freed people. It will not do at present to trust the ballot 
in the hands of the white men who have been rebels, and still are such 
under the guise of Union men. I believe this to be true whether the 
blacks be allowed to vote or not. There should be a long intermediate 
probationary state prescribed before they are again allowed to ap- 
proach the ballot-box." 20 

The abolition-democracy found support in the West. The German 
and Scandinavians, who had settled in the Northwest, were naturally 
democratic. Before the war, they had stood against Southern preten- 
sions, and in their midst, the Republican party was born. They dis- 
liked aristocracy and they disliked the South because the South was 
against foreigners and immigration. Among the Germans were many 
labor leaders and doctrinaires, so that the Northwest could be counted 
on for democracy. But at the same time, it could be counted on for 
opposition to the new industrial organization with which the North- 


eastern Abolitionists were making alliance. However, the union of in- 
dustrialists and the Abolitionists became closer, and since it was un- 
answered by any move towards democracy in the South or any sym- 
pathy for democracy by Johnson, the West followed the Abolitionists, 
until later they were seduced by the \ula\ psychology of land owner- 

In the displacement of Southern feudal agriculture by Northern 
industry, where did the proletariat, the worker, stand ? The proletariat 
is usually envisaged as united, but their real interests were represented 
in America by four sets of people : the freed Negro, the Southern poor 
white, and the Northern skilled and common laborer. These groups 
never came to see their common interests, and the financiers and capi- 
talists easily kept the upper hand. On the other hand, the West and 
South bore peculiar relations to the new industry. The South clung to 
the ideal of aristocracy and had no thought of the real democratic 
movement. Even the poor whites thought of emancipation as giving 
them a better chance to become rich planters, landowners and em- 
ployers of Negro labor, and never until the twentieth century en- 
visaged themselves as a labor class. The Western farmers in the same 
way vacillated between the ideal of speculative landholders and peas- 
ant farmers. They harked back to the opportunism of the frontier 
and wanted freedom to exploit as well as to vote. In New York, Ne- 
groes had replaced workers who were on strike, and the two parties 
fought on the docks of the Morgan Line. In Ohio there were various 
outbreaks; in Cincinnati and in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Chicago, 
Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo and Albany, race riots occurred during the 
war. In 1862, Negro longshoremen were assaulted, and colored work- 
ing men employed in a Brooklyn tobacco factory were mobbed in 
August. In July, 1862, there were disturbances in New York City, and 
finally, in 1863, July 13, came the terrible draft riot. As Abraham Lin- 
coln said, March 21, 1864, "None are so deeply interested to resist the 
present rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of prejudice, 
working division and hostility among themselves. The most notable 
feature of a disturbance in your city last summer was the hanging of 
some working people by other working people. It should never be so. 
The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, 
should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, 
and kindreds." 

When Lincoln died a year later, Irish organizations refused to march 
with Negroes, and the common council of New York City refused to 
allow Negroes in the Lincoln funeral procession; but the New York 
Tribune announced that through the intervention of the Police Com- 
missioner, "a place in the procession had been assigned to the colored 


societies and other personages, and the police will see that they occupy 
it without hindrance from any quarter." Meantime, the common coun- 
cil declined to revoke their order. 

When the war closed, a million men were returning to the labor 
market. Gold was at its height, prices were high, and unemployment 
spread. Strikes took place, soldiers were used to put them down, and 
laws were introduced to prevent strikes. 

The labor movement comprehended, therefore, chiefly Northern 
skilled laborers. Among them organization was growing. Recovering 
from the oppressions of war, there were 79 craft unions at the end of 
1863, and they had grown to 270 in 1864. Ten national unions were 
formed between 1863 and 1866, and by 1870 there were 32 national 
unions. But almost none of these unions mentioned the Negro, or con- 
sidered him or welcomed him. A "National Assembly of North Amer- 
ica" was held at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1864, and passed resolutions 
concerning working men and labor conditions; but it said nothing of 
the greatest revolution in labor that had happened in America for a 
hundred years — the emancipation of slaves. 

Meantime, a new flood of cheap immigrant labor was brought into 
the country to work on the railroads and in the new industries. North- 
ern mill owners who had feared free farms because they might de- 
crease the number of laborers and raise their wages, were appeased by 
the promotion of alien immigration. It was interesting to hear the 
Union Party, as the Republicans called themselves in 1864, say, in their 
platform: "Foreign immigration which in the past had added so much 
to the wealth and development of resources and the increase of power 
to this nation — the aspirations of the oppressed of all nations — should 
be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy." That year the 
Bureau of Immigration was created, and it was authorized to import 
workers bound for a term of service. The letter of the law was after- 
wards changed, but the practice continued for a long time. 

In i860, immigrants were coming in at the rate of 130,000 a year. 
The outbreak of the war brought the number down, but the new 
homestead laws began to attract them so that after the war immigra- 
tion quickly rose from 200,000 to 350,000 a year, and in 1873, had 
reached 460,000 annually. 

It was all too true, as Senator Wilson of Massachusetts said in the 
38th Congress, but it was a truth that white laborers did not yet real- 
ize: "We have advocated the rights of the black man, because the 
black man was the most oppressed type of toiling man of this coun- 
try. I tell you, sir, that the man who is the enemy of the black laboring 
man is the enemy of the white laboring man the world over. The same 


influences that go to keep down and crush the rights of the poor black 
man bear down and oppress the poor white laboring man." 

The First International Workingmen's Association formed by Karl 
Marx in London in 1864 wrote Lincoln after his second election and 
said: "From the commencement of the titanic American strife, the 
workingmen of Europe felt distinctly that the Star-Spangled Banner 
carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which 
opened the epoch, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil 
of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the immigrant or 
be prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver? 

"When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe for 
the first time in the annals of the world 'Slavery' on the banner of 
armed revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the 
idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence 
the first declaration of the rights of man was issued, and the first im- 
pulse given to the European Revolution of the eighteenth century, 
when on those very spots counter-revolution, with systematic thorough- 
ness, gloried in rescinding 'the ideas entertained at the time of the 
formation of the old Constitution' and maintained 'slavery to be a 
beneficial institution,' indeed, the only solution of the great problem 
of the 'relation of capital to labor,' and cynically proclaimed property 
in man 'the cornerstone of the new edifice' — then the working classes 
of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of 
the upper classes, for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal 
warnings, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for 
a general holy war of property against labor, and that for the men of 
labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were 
at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. 
Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon 
them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the pro-slavery in- 
tervention importunities of their betters, and from most parts of 
Europe contributed their quota of blood to the good of the cause. 

"While the workingmen, the true political power of the North, 
allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, 
mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest 
prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his 
own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or 
to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; 
but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil 

"The workingmen of Europe felt sure that as the American War of 
Independence initiated a new era of ascendency for the Middle Class, 
so the American Anti-Slavery war will do for the working classes. 


They consider it an earnest sign of the epoch to come that it fell to 
the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working 
class, to lead his country through the matchless struggles for the rescue 
of the enchained race and the Reconstruction of a social world." 21 

The first fruit of the growing understanding between industrial ex- 
pansion and abolition-democracy was the Freedmen's Bureau. While 
industry in the North was dividing the labor movement and establish- 
ing a far more effective dictatorship of capital over labor than it had 
ever had before, it was compelled in the South to institute another 
dictatorship, designedly and expressly for the protection of emanci- 
pated Negro labor. In the Freedmen's Bureau, the United States 
started upon a dictatorship by which the landowner and the capitalist 
were to be openly and deliberately curbed and which directed its 
efforts in the interest of a black and white labor class. If and when 
universal suffrage came to reenforce this point of view, an entirely 
different development of American industry and American civiliza- 
tion must ensue. The Freedmen's Bureau was the most extraordinary 
and far-reaching institution of social uplift that America has ever 
attempted. It had to do, not simply with emancipated slaves and poor 
whites, but also with the property of Southern planters. It was a gov- 
ernment guardianship for the relief and guidance of white and black 
labor from a feudal agrarianism to modern farming and industry. For 
this work there was and had to be a full-fledged government of men. 
"It made laws, executed them and interpreted them; it laid and col- 
lected taxes, defined and punished crimes, maintained and used mili- 
tary force, and dictated such measures as it thought necessary and 
proper for the accomplishment of its varied ends. Naturally, all these 
powers were not exercised continuously nor to their fullest extent; 
and yet, as General Howard has said, 'scarcely any subject that has to 
be legislated upon in civil society failed, at one time or another, to 
demand the action of this singular Bureau.' " 22 Thus the Freedmen's 
Bureau, which rose automatically as a result of the slaves' general 
strike during the war, and came directly out of the consolidation of the 
various army departments of Negro affairs, now loomed as the great- 
est plan of reasoned emancipation yet proposed. For this reason, the 
bill for its establishment met covert and open opposition. It was op- 
posed by all advocates of slavery, and all persons North and South 
who did not propose that emancipation should really free the slaves; 
it was advocated by every element that wanted to achieve this vast 
social revolution by reasoned leadership, money and sacrifice. It was 
finally emasculated and abolished by those in the North who grudged 
its inevitable cost, and by that Southern sentiment which passed the 
black codes. 


A bill to establish a Bureau in the War Department for the care of 
refugees and freedmen was passed March 3, 1865. It had been pro- 
posed as early as 1863, when a number of petitions for a bureau of 
emancipation were presented to Congress. In January, 1863, less than 
a month after the Emancipation Proclamation, T. D. Eliot introduced 
into the House the first bill. But the committee did not report it, and 
the Freedmen's Aid Societies renewed their petitions. 

At the opening of the new session in December, 1863, Eliot intro- 
duced another bill. This bill was objected to in the House because of 
its cost, its charitable features, and the possible corruption of its em- 
ployees. Eliot defended the bill vigorously. The Negroes had been 
freed by proclamation, law, and force, and their freedom must be main- 
tained. They were freed through selfish motives, to weaken the enemy. 
It would be the depth of meanness to let them now grope their way 
without guidance or protection. The President, by proclamation, had 
pledged the maintenance of Negro freedom, and Congress had recog- 
nized its obligation to secure employment and support of Negroes on 
abandoned lands. Negroes were now oppressed by Southerners and 
Northern harpies. Further legislation was imperatively demanded. In 
the ensuing debates, the bill was defended as encouraging the enlist- 
ment of colored soldiers, and as calculated to bring order out of the 
present chaos. It would form a new class of consumers for Northern 
products. On the other hand, opponents insisted that the Bureau 
would open a vast field for corruption, and that it was a revolutionary 
effort on the part of a government of limited powers. Brooks of New 
York denounced it because it would put black labor under Northern 
taskmasters in competition with white labor and capitalists in the 
North. It was passed March 1, 1864, by the close vote of 69-67. 

In the Senate it was referred to the Committee on Slavery and Free- 
dom, of which Charles Sumner was chairman. Here it was trans- 
formed from a temporary makeshift and war expedient and began to 
take the form of a great measure of social uplift and reform. The 
Bureau was attached to the Treasury Department. Sumner pressed the 
bill, arguing that private benevolence could not cope with the problem 
and that a bureau was necessary; that the Treasury was already in 
charge of abandoned property and had special agents in the field. The 
bill passed the Senate, June 28, by a vote of 21-9. The House refused 
to concur and the whole subject went over to the next session. Re- 
newed arguments and petitions came in favor of the bill. In July, seven 
Freedmen's Aid associations of the West met in Indianapolis. They 
drew up a memorial complaining of the current methods of dealing 
with the freedmen and asking for a supervising agent, because of the 
failure of Congress to establish a bureau. 


December 20, 1864, the matter was taken up again in the House and 
a conference committee appointed with Sumner and Eliot. This com- 
mittee reported February 2, 1865, and recommended an independent 
Department of Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. In the debates, 
there was great diversity of opinion. Some feared that the freedman 
would be too strictly controlled and that this would curtail his "initia- 
tive" and "self-reliance." Others urged the necessity of the bill to res- 
cue these wards from ignorance and pauperism, and guide them into 
confidence and self-control. The bill passed that House by another 
close vote of 64-62. 

However, there appeared at the same time another bill for the relief 
of both white refugees and freedmen and the temporary use of aban- 
doned property. It was a short and temporary measure. Both these 
bills went to the Senate. Sumner stoutly defended the comprehensive 
measure agreed upon in conference. But the opposition of both Demo- 
crats and Republicans was too strong and the conference report was 
rejected. A second conference was held and a new bill presented, cre- 
ating a Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands in the 
War Department. 

All these proposals meant that there was a question as to whether 
this bureau was to be a temporary war measure, or a permanent insti- 
tution for abolishing slavery and inducting Negroes gradually into 
economic and political freedom. If it were attached to the War Depart- 
ment, it would end with the war. In the Treasury, it would serve to 
settle problems of taxation, crops and finance, but presumably end 
when war finance yielded to peace. In the Interior Department or as 
a separate department, the Freedmen's Bureau would be permanent, 
with regular revenues and a wide and comprehensive program of work. 

The debate on the final bill was limited, and without a vote the 
report of the Conference Committee was accepted March 3rd. Abraham 
Lincoln immediately signed the bill. This bill provided for a Bureau 
to last "during the present War of Rebellion, and for one year there- 
after." It had at its head a commissioner appointed by the President 
with the consent of the Senate, and assistant commissioners might be 
appointed for each of the ten states in rebellion. Army officers could 
be used as assistant commissioners. The Secretary of War was to 
issue necessary provisions, clothing, and fuel, and under the direction 
of the President, the Commissioner could set aside for freedmen and 
refugees tracts of land of not more than forty acres to be leased to 
tenants; the lessees were to be protected in the use of the land for three 
years at a low rent. At the end of the term, the tenant could purchase 
the land at an appraised value. 

Some Congressmen, like Conness, could not conceive of a Freed- 


men's Bureau conducted for the benefit of labor. "Where will the 
freedman get the capital to buy his horse or his oxen and other agri- 
cultural implements, to put his crop of cotton or corn in the ground? 
All these require capital far beyond the ability of the freedman to 
command, and renders the scheme impractical so far as it professed 
to be of benefit to the freedman. 

"The inevitable result will be that the freedman will lease no land. 
He will not be able to lease and cultivate land. He will not be able to 
purchase equipment of horse and agricultural implements that will be 
necessary for its cultivation. Then he must fall into general line and 
become simply a laborer to be hired to some man with whom they are 
secretly in partnership, with whom they share the profits and the 
produce of the freedman's labor from these abandoned lands." 23 The 
inevitable corollary that under the especial circumstances of emanci- 
pated slave labor, the state must furnish capital, was inconceivable to 
men like Conness. He, like Lane of Indiana, made the old American 
Assumption of economic independence open to all. "I am opposed to 
the whole theory of the Freedmen's Bureau. I would make them free 
under the law. I would protect them in the courts of justice; if neces- 
sary, I would give them the right of suffrage, and let loyal slaves vote 
their rebel masters down and reconstruct the seceded states; but I wish 
to have no system of guardianship and pupilage and overseership over 
these Negroes." 

There was in the debate, inside and outside of Congress, distinct 
evidence that industry, rather than pay the cost of social uplift on the 
scale which an efficient Freedmen's Bureau evidently demanded, 
would accept immediate Negro suffrage as a preferable panacea. Just as 
the refuge of those who opposed the right to vote was work for the 
freedman and regular habits of labor; so on the other hand, those who 
opposed systematic organization of such work, found refuge in the 
ballot. Pomeroy had seen thousands of colored and white refugees 
"coming into my state and I say here distinctly that the colored people 
are able to take care of themselves and find their places and adapt 
themselves to their new conditions easier and quicker than the poor 
white refugees who are driven out of the Border States. 

"I desire that those who advocate this bill will stop here and spend 
their time and talent in demanding for the Negro race all the rights 
and privileges of freedom. Do this and no Freedmen's Bureau at all 
is necessary. 

"Sir, I am for all races of men. I do not believe that it is necessary 
to secure the property of one race that another shall be destroyed . . . 

"Let us refuse admittance to every rebel state unless the privilege 


of the elective franchise is granted to the colored man. I believe the 
future permanency of this government depends upon this, and I be- 
lieve those who have fought this war have no safety or security with- 
out it. 

Here was a logical resting place; no funds or permanency for a 
Freedmen's Bureau, and Negro suffrage to defend Northern industry; 
and no element fought harder and more determinedly to make this 
possible than the white South. With the possibility of a government 
guardianship to conduct the Negro in freedom by industry, land, and 
education at the expense of the nation, the South deliberately and bit- 
terly fought and maligned the Bureau at every turn, and in the end 
it received the Reconstruction bills as its just reward. 

For the stupendous work which the Freedmen's Bureau must at- 
tempt, it had every disadvantage except one. It was so limited in time 
that it had small chance for efficient and comprehensive planning. It 
had at first no appropriated funds, but was supposed to depend on 
the chance accumulations of war time, unclaimed bounties of Negro 
soldiers, confiscated land and property formerly belonging to the Con- 
federate Government, and rations. Further than this it had to use a 
rough military machine for administrating delicate social reform. The 
qualities which make a good soldier do not necessarily make a good 
social reformer. And while in many instances the Bureau was fortu- 
nate in its personnel, in others it was just as unfortunate, and had to 
put in administrative positions military martinets, men disillusioned 
and cynical after a terrible war, or careless and greedy and in no way 
suited for farsighted social building. 

The most fortunate thing that Lincoln gave the Bureau was its 
head, Oliver Howard. Howard was neither a great administrator nor 
a great man, but he was a good man. He was sympathetic and hu- 
mane, and tried with endless application and desperate sacrifice to do 
a hard, thankless duty. "His high reputation as a Christian gentleman 
gave him the esteem of the humane and benevolent portion of the 
public, upon whose confidence and cooperation his success was largely 
to depend." 24 

The task that Howard had was of the gravest, because there were 
three things that the conquered South fought with bitter determina- 

1. Any Federal interference with labor. 

2. Arms in the hands of Negroes. 

3. Votes for Negroes. 

This opposition did not arise primarily from any failure of the Bu- 
reau in the performance of its duty, or because its work functioned 
imperfectly. Even if it had been a perfect and well-planned ma- 


chine for its mission, the planters in the main were determined to try to 
coerce both black labor and white, without outside interference of any 
sort. They proposed to enact and enforce the black codes. They were 
going to replace legal slavery by customary serfdom and caste. And they 
were going to do all this because they could not conceive of civiliza- 
tion in the South with free Negro workers, or Negro soldiers or voters. 

Howard, therefore, had a battle on his hands from the start. His 
bureau was limited by temporarily extended and incomplete laws until 
its main work was practically done in 1869, although some of its func- 
tions extended until June 30, 1872. Under these circumstances, the 
astonishing thing is that the Bureau was able to accomplish any defi- 
nite and worth-while results; yet it did and the testimony in support 
of this comes from its friends and enemies. 

Howard says: "The law establishing the Bureau committed to it 
the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen under 
such regulations as might be prescribed by the head of the Bureau and 
approved by the President. This almost unlimited authority gave me 
great scope and liberty of action, but at the same time it imposed upon 
me very perplexing and responsible duties. Legislative, judicial and 
executive powers were combined in my commission, reaching all the 
interests of four millions of people, scattered over a vast territory, liv- 
ing in the midst of another people claiming to be superior, and known 
to be not altogether friendly. . . ." The conditions facing the Bureau 
were chaotic. "In every state many thousands were found without em- 
ployment, without homes, without means of subsistence, crowding 
into towns and about military posts, where they hoped to find protec- 
tion and supplies. The sudden collapse of the rebellion, making eman- 
cipation an actual, universal fact, was like an earthquake. It shook 
and shattered the whole previously existing social system. It broke up 
the old industries and threatened a reign of anarchy. Even well-dis- 
posed and humane landowners were at a loss what to do, or how to 
begin the work of reorganizing society and of rebuilding their 
ruined fortunes. Very few had any knowledge of free labor, or any 
hope that their former slaves would serve them faithfully for wages. 
On the other hand, the freed people were in a state of great excitement 
and uncertainty. They could hardly believe that the liberty proclaimed 
was real and permanent. Many were afraid to remain on the same soil 
that they had tilled as slaves lest by some trick they might find them- 
selves again in bondage. Others supposed that the Government would 
either take the entire supervision of their labor and support, or divide 
among them the lands of the conquered owners, and furnish them 
with all that might be necessary to begin life as an independent 
farmer." 25 


Twelve labors of Hercules faced the Freedmen's Bureau: to make 
as rapidly as possible a general survey of conditions and needs in every 
state and locality; to relieve immediate hunger and distress; to ap- 
point state commissioners and upwards of 900 bureau officials; to put 
the laborers to work at regular wage; to transport laborers, teachers 
and officials; to furnish land for the peasant; to open schools; to pay 
bounties to black soldiers and their families; to establish hospitals and 
guard health; to administer justice between man and former master; 
to answer continuous and persistent criticism, North and South, black 
and white; to find funds to pay for all this. 

In four years the Bureau issued over twenty-one million rations to 
the hungry and unemployed — fifteen and a half million to blacks and 
five and a half million to whites. The number rose to five million 
in 1866, and then fell from three and one-half to two and one-half mil- 
lion in 1867-1868. The total cost of food and clothing, 1865-1871, was 
set down at $3,168,325. 

In the eyes of a nation dedicated to profitable industry, as well as in 
the eyes of bureau officials, the first major problem was to set the 
Negroes to work under a wage contract. "To secure fairness and to 
inspire confidence on both sides, the system of written contracts was 
adopted. No compulsion was used, but all were advised to enter into 
written agreements and submit them to an officer of the Bureau for 
approval. The nature and obligations of these contracts were carefully 
explained to the freedmen, and a copy filed in the office of the agent 
approving it; this was for their use in case any difficulty arose between 
them and their employers. The labor imposed upon my officers and 
agents by this system was very great, as evinced by the fact that in a 
single state not less than fifty thousand (50,000) such contracts were 
drawn in duplicate and filled up with the names of all the parties." 

The purely economic results of this effort were unusually satisfac- 
tory. There was cheating by employers, and malingering by laborers, 
and widespread disorder; yet "in spite of all disorders that have pre- 
vailed and the misfortunes that have fallen upon many parts of the 
South, a good degree of prosperity and success has already been at- 
tained. To the oft-repeated slander that the Negroes will not work, 
and are incapable of taking care of themselves, it is a sufficient answer 
that their voluntary labor has produced nearly all the food that sup- 
ported the whole people, besides a large amount of rice, sugar and 
tobacco for export, and two millions of bales of cotton each year, on 
which was paid into the United States treasury during the years 1866 
and 1867 a tax °f more than forty millions of dollars ($40,000,000). It 
is not claimed that this result is wholly due to the care and oversight 
of this Bureau, but it is safe to say, as it has been said repeatedly by 


intelligent Southern white men, that without the bureau or some sim- 
ilar agency, the material interests of the country would have greatly 
suffered, and the government would have lost a far greater amount 
than has been expended in its maintenance. . . ." Three-quarters of a 
million of dollars was spent in transporting laborers to homes and to 
work, and teachers and agents to their fields of duty. 

The insistent demand of the Negro, aided by army officers and 
Northern churches and philanthropic organizations, began the sys- 
tematic teaching of Negroes and poor whites. This beginning the 
Freedmen's Bureau raised to a widespread system of Negro public 
schools. The Bureau furnished day and night schools, industrial 
schools, Sunday schools and colleges. Between June i, 1865, and Sep- 
tember 1, 1871, $5,262,511.26 was spent on schools from Bureau funds, 
and in 1870 there were in day and night schools 3,300 teachers and 
149,581 pupils. Nearly all the present Negro universities and colleges 
like Howard, Fisk, and Atlanta, were founded or substantially aided 
in their earliest days by the Freedmen's Bureau. 

There were systematic plans to care for the sick. In the summer of 
1865 there were detailed in the several states fourteen surgeons and 
three assistant surgeons, who took care of white and black people in 
distress, and engaged local surgeons to help them. By September, 1867, 
there were forty-six hospitals with 5,292 beds. The hospitals were dis- 
tributed in fourteen different states, and the annual appropriation for 
medical purposes was nearly $500,000 in 1866 and 1867; the total ex- 
penditure for the Medical Department has been estimated to have been 
$2,000,000. With this money, 452,419 cases were treated, and perhaps 
an equal number unrecorded. In all, nearly a million persons were 
given medical aid. The death rate among the freedmen was reduced 
from 30% to 13% in 1865, and to 2.03% in 1869. Something was done 
in providing physicians in large towns, inspecting sanitation, and 
treating lame, blind, deaf and dumb and aged persons and orphans. 
Temporary care was given the insane. 

The judicial work of the Bureau consisted in protecting the Negro 
from violence and outrage, from serfdom, and in defending his right 
to hold property and enforce his contracts. It was to see that Negroes 
had fair trials and that their testimony was received, and their family 
relations respected. The Commissioner laid down general rules for the 
administration of justice by bureau officials. Freedmen's courts and 
boards of arbitration were organized when needed, and while an at- 
tempt was made to secure uniformity in these courts, they presented 
much variety in composition and procedure. Sometimes the Assistant 
Commissioner constituted the court; sometimes it consisted of an 
agent appointed by him, and a representative of the freedmen and one 


of the whites. They acted only in cases where one or both parties 
were Negroes, and they imposed fines and enforced their judgments. 

The financial support of the Bureau was haphazard. No appropria- 
tions were made under the original Freedmen's Bureau Bill, but 
funds were supplied from many departments of Negro affairs and 
from the handling of abandoned property and from taxes and fees. 
Nearly eight hundred thousand acres of farming land and about five 
thousand pieces of town property were transferred to the bureau by 
military and treasury officers, or taken up by assistant commissioners. 
Of this enough was leased to produce a revenue of nearly four hun- 
dred thousand dollars. Some farms were set aside as homes for the 
destitute and helpless, and a portion was cultivated by freedmen prior 
to its restoration. The necessary task of settling the Negroes on their 
own homesteads was begun by the bureau but soon rendered impos- 
sible by lack of land and funds and deliberately hostile executive ac- 
tion. Through the agency of the bureau, the government paid out 
eight thousand dollars in bounties to over five thousand Negro soldiers 
and their heirs, and thus helped furnish some capital to the new 

Under the second Freedmen's Bureau Bill, passed in 1866, these 
sources were being exhausted so that the Army Appropriation bill in- 
cluded $594,450 for the Bureau. Succeeding appropriations brought the 
total to $12,961,395. Adding the cost of various army supplies used, 
Howard estimated "the total expenses of our Government for refugees 
and freedmen to August 31, 1869, have been $13,579,816.82." 26 If we 
add to this the increase in the army payroll caused by the Bureau, and 
other items, Pierce estimates that the total expenditure for the Bureau 
was between $17,000,000 and $18,000,000. 

This does not prove that the Freedmen's Bureau was a complete 
success, for it was not; from the nature of the organization and its 
limitations it could not be. The white South made it the object of its 
bitterest attacks. It accused the agents of every crime and mistake and 
planned for its removal. This was natural; for, in its essence, the bu- 
reau was a dictatorship of the army over property for the benefit of 
labor. It was aimed at the worst methods of exploitation; it sought to 
give the Negro some standing at law; it compelled the keeping of con- 
tracts; and while the testimony as to the net results varies it seems 
true, as Pierce says: 27 "Notwithstanding abuses and extravagances, 
the bureau did a great, an indispensable work of mercy and relief, at 
a time when no other organization or body was in a position to do 
that work. 

"To the Negro was imparted a conception — inadequate and dis- 
torted though it may have been — of his civil rights as a freeman. In a 


land long dominated by slavery, when freedom had just been decreed, 
when neither black nor white well understood the value of free labor, 
and before the law of supply and demand could readjust labor rela- 
tions, the bureau set up a tentative scale of wages. . . . When under 
the direction of broad, temperate, capable agents, the labor division 
unquestionably accomplished much of the larger purpose for which 
it was ordained and which its friends maintain that it fulfilled. All 
things considered in this branch of the work, more marked success 
was achieved than a calm study of the perplexing situation would lead 
the thoughtful man of today to think that such an abnormal and short- 
lived institution could have attained." 

A white citizen of Louisiana adds: "The best influence in settling 
the state of things in Louisiana, would be to maintain there for some 
years a rigid administration of the Freedmen's Bureau to protect the 
blacks and their rights, as well as to see that they complied with rea- 
sonable and proper contracts they might make. I consider that such 
an establishment would stand as a barrier to the encroachments of one 
class upon the rights of the other." 28 

Other critics are worth hearing. A Virginian, J. M. Botts, said: "I 
have heard of a great many difficulties and outrages which have pro- 
ceeded, in some instances, if the truth has been represented to me, 
from the ignorance and fanaticism of persons connected with the 
Freedmen's Bureau. . . . On the other hand, there are many of the 
persons connected with the Freedmen's Bureau who have conducted 
themselves with great propriety; and where that has been so, there 
has been no difficulty between the whites and blacks." 29 Judge Hill 
writes, "Like all other efforts of humanity, the results of the Freed- 
men's Bureau depended very much upon those appointed to carry it 
out and give it the aid intended. Where the agent was a man of good 
sense and free from prejudice to either party or race, good results 
were attained; but, in many instances, the agents were deficient in 
these necessary qualifications, and the results were, not only a failure 
to accomplish the purpose of the bureau, but a decided evil." 30 

Wallace bitterly arraigns the bureau officials in Florida: 

"The Freedmen's Bureau, an institution devised by Congress under 
the influence of the very best people of the Northern States, and in- 
tended as a means of protection of the freedmen, and preparing them 
for the new responsibilities and privileges conferred, in the hands of 
bad men proved, instead of a blessing, to be the worst curse of the 
race, as under it he was misled, debased and betrayed." 31 

The various investigations of the bureau brought out damaging facts 
as to the handling of funds and careless administration and yet "the 
peculiar difficulties of the bureau's financial problems must not be 


lost sight of. The amount involved was large. It was impossible to 
avoid errors in identifying the hordes of nameless, irresponsible claim- 
ants to public money entrusted to the bureau. The thousands of agents 
scattered over a vast area were beyond the close personal supervision 
of higher officials, and much of the irregularity and fraud was clearly 
traceable to unscrupulous local agents. There is no reason to believe 
that the commissioner was guilty of embezzlement, fraud, or personal 
dishonesty; but he certainly was not a strict constructionist. Doubtless 
his liberal interpretation of statutes was designed to benefit the freed- 
men and refugees to whose protection and welfare his efforts were 
directed. Often such interpretation was due to the delay of Congress 
in making appropriations demanded by the exigencies of the hour." 32 

Grant brought forward some hearsay criticism during the first year. 
President Johnson sent two generals South who uncovered cases of 
fraud and maladministration, but commended Howard and believed 
the Bureau had done much to preserve order and to organize free 
labor. A final court of inquiry was commenced by act of Congress in 
1874, and sat for forty days. 

The. committee gave in its majority report its judgment of this ex- 
traordinary experiment. "The general effect of the policy pursued by 
this people towards the freedmen and the general results of the ad- 
ministration of the Freedmen's Bureau by General Howard are mat- 
ters of history. Without civil convulsion, without any manifestation 
of violence or hate towards those who had subjected him and his 
ancestors to the accumulated wrongs of generations of servitude, the 
enfranchised Negro at once and quietly entered upon new relations of 
freeman and citizen. During the five years since the bureau has been 
established, General Howard has directed the expenditure of twelve 
million nine hundred and sixty-five thousand, three hundred and 
ninety-five dollars and forty cents; has exercised oversight and care for 
the freedmen and refugees in seventeen States and the District of Co- 
lumbia, a territory of 350,000 square miles, and cooperated with benev- 
olent societies, aiding in the education of hundreds of thousands of 
pupils, and in the relief of vast numbers of destitute and homeless 
persons of all ages and both sexes. . , . 

"The world can point to nothing like it in all the history of eman- 
cipation. No thirteen millions of dollars were ever more wisely spent; 
yet, from the beginning this scheme has encountered the bitterest op- 
position and the most unrelenting hate. Scoffed at like a thing of 
shame, often struck and wounded, sometimes in the house of its 
friends, apologized for rather than defended; yet, with God on its 
side, the Freedmen's Bureau has triumphed; civilization has received 
a new impulse, and the friends of humanity may well rejoice. The 


Bureau work is being rapidly brought to a close, and its accomplish- 
ments will enter into history, while the unfounded accusations brought 
against it will be forgotten." 33 

This is perhaps an overstatement. The Freedmen's Bureau did an 
extraordinary piece of work but it was but a small and imperfect part 
of what it might have done if it had been made a permanent institu- 
tion, given ample funds for operating schools and purchasing land, and 
if it had been gradually manned by trained civilian administrators. All 
this was clear when Andrew Johnson vetoed the Freedmen's Bureau 
bill in 1866. 

For the first time in history the people of the United States listened 
not only to the voices of the Negroes' friends, but to the Negro him- 
self. He was becoming more and more articulate, in the South as well 
as in the North. 

Also the actions of the Negroes were telling on public opinion, and 
were given for the first time intelligent and sympathetic publicity. 
Black soldiers paraded; black petitions, some illiterate, some like that 
from the District of Columbia, in excellent and logical form, were 
published. Black men began to enter public movements and there was 
a subsidence of ridicule and caricature. The meetings and petitions of 
Southern Negroes were significant and cannot be discounted. Many 
were doubtless instigated by white friends, but not all; and even these 
had significant internal evidence of genuine thought and action. 

In May, 1864, the Negroes at Port Royal, South Carolina, partici- 
pated in a meeting which elected delegates to the National Conven- 
tion at Baltimore in June. Robert Smalls and three other Negroes were 
among the sixteen delegates, but were denied seats. "On the seventh 
of August last [1865] a convention of colored men was held in this 
city [Nashville]. ... It was resolved that the colored people of the 
State of Tennessee respectfully and solemnly protest against the con- 
gressional delegation from this State being admitted to seats in your 
honorable bodies until the Legislature of this State enact such laws as 
shall secure to us our rights as freemen. 

"We cannot believe that the General Government will allow us to 
be left without such protection after knowing, as you do, what services 
we have rendered to the cause of the preservation of the Union and 
the maintenance of the laws. We have respectfully petitioned our 
Legislature upon the subject, and have failed to get them to do any- 
thing for us, saying that it was premature to legislate for the protec- 
tion of our rights." 34 September 3, 1865, a Negro convention was held 
in Raleigh, North Carolina, and adopted resolutions for proper wages, 
education, protection for their families, and repeal of unjust discrim- 
ination. October 7, 1865, the colored citizens of Mississippi protested 


against the reactionary policy of the state and expressed the fear that 
they were to be reenslaved. "They set forth that, owing to the preju- 
dice existing there, they have not been able to assemble in convention, 
but that they have done as well as they could, through a few of their 
number to set forth their grievances. They represent four hundred and 
thirty-seven thousand four hundred and four citizens of the United 
States, being a majority of nearly one hundred thousand in that State. 
These people, in a very brief petition, asked Congress to grant them 
the right of suffrage, that 'we may,' they say, 'the more effectually prove 
our fidelity to the United States; as we have fought in favor of liberty, 
justice, and humanity, we wish to vote in favor of it and give our 
influence to the permanent establishment of pure republican institu- 
tions in these United States; and also that we may be in a position in 
a legal and peaceable way to protect ourselves in the enjoyment of 
those sacred rights which were pledged to us by the emancipation 
proclamation.' " 35 

A colored people's convention met in Zion Church, Charleston, 
S. C, in November, 1865, to protest against the work of the convention 
and legislature. This began concerted political action by the Negroes 
of the state. Robert C. DeLarge, A. J. Ransier, }. J. Wright, Beverly 
Nash, Francis L. Cardozo, M. R. Delany, and Richard H. Cain, were 
there. They declared that this was "an extraordinary meeting, un- 
known in the history of South Carolina, when it is considered who 
composed it and for what purposes it was allowed to assemble." Com- 
plaint was lodged against the state authorities in depriving Negroes 
"of the rights of the meanest profligate in the country"; Congress was 
asked to throw "the strong arm of the law over the entire population 
of the state," and grant "equal suffrage," and abolish the "black 
code." 36 

The petition of this meeting, signed by people of South Carolina, 
was presented to the Senate in December. "They respectfully asked 
Congress, in consideration of their unquestioned loyalty, exhibited by 
them alike as bond or free, as soldier or laborer, in the Union lines 
under the protection of the Government, or within the rebel lines 
under the domination of the rebellion, that in the exercise of our high 
authority over the reestablishment of civil government in South Caro- 
lina their equal right before the law may be respected; that in the 
formation and adoption of the fundamental law of the State, they may 
have an equal voice with all loyal citizens, and that Congress will not 
sanction any State constitution which does not secure the exercise of 
the right of the elective franchise to all loyal citizens otherwise quali- 
fied in the common course of American law, without distinction of 
color." 3T 


The colored people of Alabama, in convention at Mobile, in 1866, 
called upon Congress to provide some means of making their freedom 
secure. "They say that in the city where they were assembled in con- 
vention several of their churches had been already burned to the 
ground by the torch of the incendiary, and threats are frequently made 
to continue the destruction of their property; the means of education 
for their children are secured to them only by the strong arm of the 
United States Government against the marked opposition of their 
white fellow-citizens, while throughout the whole State the right to 
participate in the franchises of freemen is denied as insulting to white 
men; and a respectful appeal addressed by some of their people to the 
late State convention was scornfully laid upon the table, some of the 
members even refusing to hear its reading. They also state that many 
of their people daily suffer almost every form of outrage and violence 
at the hands of whites; that in many parts of the state their people can- 
not safely leave the vicinity of their homes; they are knocked down and 
beaten by their white fellow-citizens without having offered any in- 
jury or insult as a cause; they are arrested and imprisoned upon false 
accusations; their money is extorted for their release, or they are con- 
demned to imprisonment at hard labor; that many of their people are 
now in a condition of practical slavery, being compelled to serve their 
former owners without pay and to call them 'master.' They express 
a hope that Congress may be led to give them an opportunity to verify 
these statements by suitable testimony, and also further hope that 
Congress will grant them the protection they need." 38 

In 1866, January 10, a Negro convention at Augusta, Georgia, ap- 
pealed to the Georgia legislature. The freedmen declared that dur- 
ing the period di the war the majority of them had remained silendy 
at their homes, although they had known their power to rise, and 
to "fire your houses, burn your homes and railroads, and discommode 
you in a thousand ways." During the war, they had been forced into 
war service by the South. They had been compelled to throw up 
breastwork forts and fortifications and do the work of prisoners under 
the guns of the enemy, where, said they, "many of us in common with 
yourselves were killed." But now, they declared that they could no 
longer remain indifferent when the state was passing laws which 
would bind them in future years. Against these laws, they would pro- 
test firmly and openly. Another address in the same year called atten- 
tion to the treatment which the Negroes were receiving in all walks 
of life throughout the state. On the railroads they paid equal fare with 
others, but they did not "get half the accommodation." They were 
"cursed and kicked by the conductors" — their wives and sisters were 
"blackguarded and insulted by the scrapings of the earth" — and if 


they spoke of their treatment they were "frowned upon with contempt 
and replied to in bitter epithets." 39 

Major Martin R. Delaney, the most distinguished Northern Negro 
in South Carolina, declared in a letter to President Johnson, "What 
becomes necessary to secure and perpetuate the Union is simply the 
enfranchisement and recognition of political equality of the power that 
saved the nation from destruction — a recognition of the political 
equality of the blacks with the whites in all their relations as American 

" 40 

citizens. ... 

"A correspondent of the Charleston Daily Courier writing from 
Sumter, South Carolina, reported November 4, 1866, an organized 
movement among Negroes to better their condition. They held a large 
assembly to deal with the problems of the hour, this being a meeting 
on a larger scale than that of many other such which had been held 
for that purpose in that section. During the four hours of this meeting 
the correspondent reported that there was not uttered a word about 
Negro suffrage and other political questions. The keynote of the 
meeting was to secure 'a fair and remunerative reward for labor.' The 
contract system had proved to be unequal and unjust and they were 
advised to resort to the share system." 

The black West protested to the admission of Colorado with white 
suffrage. On January 24, 1866, Senator Brown of Missouri said: "I 
present a petition of certain citizens of Denver, in the Territory of 
Colorado, showing that the State Constitution, framed by a citizens' 
convention, and adopted by an almost insignificant majority of the 
legal voters of Colorado, preparatory to admission as a State, excludes 
all colored citizens of the Territory of Colorado from the right of suf- 
frage by the incorporation in that instrument of the words 'all white 
male citizens.' The petitioners, therefore, beseech your honorable 
body not to admit the Territory as a State until the word 'all white' 
be erased from her constitution." 41 

The most significant meeting took place in the North where a Na- 
tional Convention met in Syracuse, New York, in October, 1864. Be- 
sides Frederick Douglass, it was attended by George L. Ruffin, who 
afterwards became the first Negro to sit on the bench of Massachu- 
setts, George T. Downing of Rhode Island, Robert Hamilton of New 
York, William Howard Day of New Jersey, Jonathan C. Gibbs, who 
later became Secretary of State and Superintendent of Education in 
Florida; Peter H. Clark of Ohio, Henry Highland Garnet, the Negro 
preacher, Dr. Peter W. Ray of Brooklyn, and many other leaders 
of the free Negroes. The resolution said: "The weakness of our friends 
is strength to our foes. When the Anti-Slavery Standard, representing 
the American Anti-Slavery Society, denies that the society asks for the 


enfranchisement of colored men, and the Liberator apologizes for ex- 
cluding the colored men of Louisiana from the ballot-box, they injure 
us more vitally than all the ribald jests of the whole pro-slavery 
press . . . 

"In the ranks of the Democratic party, all the worst elements of 
American society fraternize; and we need not expect a single voice 
from that quarter for justice, mercy, or even decency. To it we are 
nothing; the slave-holders everything. . . . 

"How stands the case with the great Republican party in question? 
We have already alluded to it as being largely under the influence of 
the prevailing contempt for the character and rights of the colored 
race. This is seen by the slowness of our Government to employ the 
strong arm of the black man in the work of putting down the rebel- 
lion; and in its unwillingness, after thus employing him, to invest him 
with the same incitements to deeds of daring, as white soldiers; neither 
giving him the same pay, rations, and protection, nor any hope of ris- 
ing in the service by meritorious conduct. It is also seen in the fact, 
that in neither of the plans emanating from this party for reconstruct- 
ing the institutions of the Southern States, are colored men, not even 
those who had fought for the country, recognized as having any po- 
litical existence or rights whatever. . . . 

"Do you, then, ask us to state, in plain terms, just what we want of 
you, and just what we think we ought to receive at your hands? We 
answer: First of all, the complete abolition of the slavery of our race 
in the United States. We shall not stop to argue. We feel the terrible 
sting of this stupendous wrong, and that we cannot be free while our 
brothers are slaves. . . . 

"We want the elective franchise in all the states now in the Union, 
and the same in all such states as may come into the Union hereafter. 
We believe that the highest welfare of this great country will be found 
in erasing from its statute-books all enactments discriminating in 
favor or against any class of its people, and by establishing one law for 
the white and colored people alike. Whatever prejudice and taste may 
be innocently allowed to do or to dictate in social and domestic rela- 
tions, it is plain, that in the matter of government, the object of which 
is the protection and security of human rights, prejudice should be 
allowed no voice whatever. . . . 

"Your fathers laid down the principle, long ago, that universal suf- 
frage is the best foundation of Government. We believe as your 
fathers believed, and as they practiced; for, in eleven States out of the 
original thirteen, colored men exercised the right to vote at the time 
of the adoption of the Federal Constitution. . . . 

"Fellow-citizens, let us entreat you, have faith in your own prin- 


ciples. If freedom is good for any, it is good for all. If you need the 
elective franchise, we need it even more. You are strong, we are weak ; 
you are many, we are few; you are protected, we are exposed. Clothe 
us with this safeguard of our liberty, and give us an interest in the 
country to which, in common with you, we have given our lives and 
poured out our best blood. You cannot need special protection. Our 
degradation is not essential to your elevation, nor our peril essential 
to your safety. You are not likely to be outstripped in the race of im- 
provement by persons of African descent; and hence you have no need 
of superior advantage, nor to burden them with disabilities of any 
kind. . . . 

"We may conquer Southern armies by the sword; but it is another 
thing to conquer Southern hate. Now what is the natural counterpoise 
against this Southern malign hostility? This it is: give the elective 
franchise to every colored man of the South who is of sane mind, and 
has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and you have at once four 
millions of friends who will guard with their vigilance, and if need 
be, defend with their arms, the ark of Federal Liberty from the treason 
and pollution of her enemies. You are sure of enmity of the masters, — 
make sure of the friendship of the slaves; for, depend upon it, your 
Government cannot afTord to encounter the enmity of both." 42 

And so at first Abraham Lincoln looked back towards some stable 
place in the relation of blacks and whites in the South on which men 
could begin to build a new edifice for freedom, and he gave only one 
word that had in it a ring of harshness. He was willing to accept 
almost any overture on the part of the South except that he would not 
return the Negroes to slavery, and if any law compelled the executive 
to do this, that executive would not be Abraham Lincoln. There can 
be no doubt that Abraham Lincoln never would have accepted the 
Black Codes. He began by looking backward and then turned with 
this forward-looking word. 

On the other hand, Andrew Johnson started looking forward, to- 
wards free land, and the interests of the suppressed laborers in the 
South; and then realizing that one-half this laboring class was black, 
he turned his face towards reaction. He accepted the Black Codes, and 
thus he faced in the winter of 1865 the representatives of the people of 
the United States in the 39th Congress assembled. 

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons, 

Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom's bars, 

Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set, 

Still visioning the stars! T ^ 

Jessie Fauset. 



1. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, p. 25. 

2. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, pp. 181, 183. 

3. Congressional Globe, Sumner's Speech, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, pp. 674, 

675, 680, 683, 685, 686, 687. 

4. Herberg, The Heritage of the Civil War, pp. 11, 12. 

5. Compare Woodburn, Life of Thaddeus Stevens, Chapter XX. 

6. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 76. 

7. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 229. 

8. Garrison, Life of Garrison, IV, 1 861 -1879, pp. 123, 124. 

9. New York Tribune, May 8, 1865. 

10. Carl Schurz, Senate Documents, No. 2, 39th Congress, 1st Session, 1865-1 866, pp. 


11. Results of Emancipation, p. 13. 

12. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, I, p. 538. 

13. McPherson, History of Reconstruction, p. 23. 

14. McPherson, History of Reconstruction, p. 21. 

15. Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, pp. 41, 42. 

16. Testimony of Frederick H. Bruce, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 

1866, Part 2, p. 154. 

17. Wallace, Carpetbag Rule in Florida, pp. 24, 25. 

18. Testimony of Judge J. C. Underwood, Report of the Joint Committee on Recon- 

struction, 1 866, Part II, p. 7. 

19. Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction , 1866, Part II, p. 163. 

20. New York Tribune, April 22, 1865. 

21. Schliiter, Lincoln, Labor and Slavery, pp. 188-197. 

22. Du Bois, Souls of Blac^. Folk, p. 27. 

23. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session. 

24. Howard Investigation, p. 5. 

25. Atlanta University Studies, No. 12, pp. 39, 40, 41. 

26. Du Bois, Atlanta University Studies, II, p. 42. 

27. Pierce, The Freedmen's Bureau, pp. 104, 160. 

28. Testimony of Heinstadt, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 1866, 

January 27, Part III, p. 25. 

29. Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 1866, Part II, p. 123. 

30. Pierce, The Freedmen's Bureau, p. 157. 

31. Wallace, Carpetbag Ride in Florida, p. 40. 

32. Pierce, The Freedmen's Bureau, pp. 127, 128. 

33. Howard Investigation, p. 20. 

34. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 107. 

35. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 128. 

36. Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, p. 55. 

37. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, pp. 107-108. 

38. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 127. 

39. Wesley, Negro Labor in the United States, pp. 122, 123. 

40. Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, p. 54. 

41. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 390. 

42. Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men Held in Syracuse, New 

York, October 4-y, 1864, pp. 48-61. 


How Andrew Johnson, unexpectedly raised to the Presidency, was 
suddenly set between a democracy which included poor whites and 
black men, and an autocracy that included Big Business and slave 
barons; and how torn between impossible allegiances, he ended in 
forcing a hesitant nation to choose between the increased political 
power of a restored Southern oligarchy and votes for Negroes 

Like Nemesis of Greek tragedy, the central problem of America 
after the Civil War, as before, was the black man: those four million 
souls whom the nation had used and degraded, and on whom the 
South had built an oligarchy similar to the colonial imperialism of 
today, erected on cheap colored labor and raising raw material for 
manufacture. If Northern industry before the war had secured a 
monopoly of the raw material raised in the South for its new manu- 
factures; and if Northern and Western labor could have maintained 
their wage scale against slave competition, the North would not have 
touched the slave system. But this the South had frustrated. It had 
threatened labor with nation-wide slave competition and had sent its 
cotton abroad to buy cheap manufactures, and had resisted the pro- 
tective tariff demanded by the North. 

It was this specific situation that had given the voice of freedom a 
chance to be heard: freedom for new-come peasants who feared the 
competition of slave labor; peasants from Europe, New England and 
the poor white South; freedom for all men black and white through 
that dream of democracy in which the best of the nation still believed. 

The result was war because of the moral wrong, the economic 
disaster and the democratic contradiction of making human labor real 
estate; war, because the South was determined to make free white 
labor compete with black slaves, monopolize land and raw material 
in the hands of a political aristocracy, and extend the scope of that 
power; war, because the industrial North refused to surrender its raw 
material and one of its chief markets to Europe; war, because white 
American labor, while it refused to recognize black labor as equal and 
human, had to fight to maintain its own humanity and ideal of equal- 



The result of the war left four million human beings just as valuable 
for the production of cotton and sugar as they had been before the 
war — but during the war, as laborers and soldiers, these Negroes had 
made it possible for the North to win, and without their actual and 
possible aid, the South would never have surrendered; and not least, 
these four million free men formed in the end the only possible moral 
justification for an otherwise sordid and selfish orgy of murder, arson 
and theft. 

Now, early in 1865, the war is over. The North does not especially 
want free Negroes; it wants trade and wealth. The South does not 
want a particular interpretation of the Constitution. It wants cheap 
Negro labor and the political and social power based on it. Had there 
been no Negroes, there would have been no war. Had no Negroes sur- 
vived the war, peace would have been difficult because of hatred, loss 
and bitter grief. But its logical path would have been straight. 

The South would have returned to its place in Congress with less 
than its former representation because of the growing North and West. 
These areas of growing manufacture and agriculture, railroad build- 
ing and corporations, would have held the political power over the 
South until the South united with the new insurgency of the West or 
the old Eastern democratic ideals. Industrialization might even have 
brought a third party representing labor and raised the proletariat to 

Of this, in 1865 there were only vague signs, and in any case, the 
former Southern aristocracy would not easily have allied itself with 
immigrant labor, while the Southern poor whites would have needed 
long experience and teaching. Thus, the North in the absence of the 
Negro would have had a vast debt, a problem of charity, distress and 
relief, such reasonable amnesty as would prevent the old Southern 
leaders from returning immediately to power, the recognition of the 
reorganized states, and then work and forgetting. 

"Let us have peace." But there was the black man looming like a 
dark ghost on the horizon. He was the child of force and greed, and 
the father of wealth and war. His labor was indispensable, and the 
loss of it would have cost many times the cost of the war. If the Negro 
had been silent, his very presence would have announced his plight. 
He was not silent. He was in unusual evidence. He was writing peti- 
tions, making speeches, parading with returned soldiers, reciting his 
adventures as slave and freeman. Even dumb and still, he must be 
noticed. His poverty had to be relieved, and emancipation in his case 
had to mean poverty. If he had to work, he had to have land and 
tools. If his labor was in reality to be free labor, he had to have legal 
freedom and civil rights. His ignorance could only be removed by 
that very education which the law of the South had long denied him 


and the custom of the North had made exceedingly difficult. Thus 
civil status and legal freedom, food, clothes and tools, access to land 
and help to education, were the minimum demands of four million 
laborers, and these demands no man could ignore, Northerner or 
Southerner, Abolitionist or Copperhead, laborer or captain of industry. 
How did the nation face this paradox and dilemma? 

Led by Abraham Lincoln, the nation had looked back to the status 
before the war in order to find a path to which the new nation and 
the new condition of the freedmen could be guided. Only one forward 
step President Lincoln insisted upon and that was the real continued 
freedom of the emancipated slave; but the abolition-democracy went 
beyond this because it was convinced that here was no logical stopping 
place; and it looked forward to civil and political rights, education and 
land, as the only complete guarantee of freedom, in the face of a 
dominant South which hoped from the first, to abolish slavery only 
in name. 

In the North, a new and tremendous dictatorship of capital was 
arising. There was only one way to curb and direct what promised to 
become the greatest plutocratic government which the world had ever 
known. This way was first to implement public opinion by the weapon 
of universal suffrage — a weapon which the nation already had in part, 
but which had been virtually impotent in the South because of slavery, 
and which was at least weakened in the North by the disfranchisement 
of an unending mass" of foreign-born laborers. Once universal suffrage 
was achieved, the next step was to use it with such intelligence and 
power that it would function in the interest of the mass of working 

To accomplish this end there should have been in the country and 
represented in Congress a union between the champions of universal 
suffrage and the rights of the freedmen, together with the leaders of 
labor, the small landholders of the West, and logically, the poor whites 
of the South. Against these would have been arrayed the Northern 
industrial oligarchy, and eventually, when they were re-admitted to 
Congress, the representatives of the former Southern oligarchy. 

This union of democratic forces never took place. On the contrary, 
they were torn apart by artificial lines of division. The old anti-Negro 
labor rivalry between white and black workers kept the labor ele- 
ments after the war from ever really uniting in a demand to increase 
labor power by Negro suffrage and Negro economic stability. The 
West was seduced from a vision of peasant-proprietors, recruited from 
a laboring class, into a vision of labor-exploiting farmers and land 
speculation which tended to transform the Western farmers into a petty 
bourgeoisie fighting not to overcome but to share spoils with the large 


land speculators, the monopolists of transportation, and the financiers. 
Wherever a liberal and democratic party started to differentiate itself 
from this group, the only alliance offered was the broken oligarchy of 
the South, with its determination to reenslave Negro labor. 

The effective combination which ensued was both curious and con- 
tradictory. The masters of industry, the financiers and monopolists, 
had in self-defense to join with abolition-democracy in forcing uni- 
versal suffrage on the South, or submit to the reassertion of the old 
land-slave feudalism with increased political power. 

Such a situation demanded an economic guardianship of freedmen, 
and the first step to this meant at least the beginning of a dictatorship 
by labor. This, however, had to be but temporary union and was bound 
to break up before long. The break was begun by the extraordinary 
corruption, graft and theft that became more and more evident in the 
country from 1868 on, as a result of the wild idea that industry and 
progress for the people of the United States were compatible with 
the selfish sequestration of profit for private individuals and powerful 

But those who revolted from the party of exploitation and high 
finance did not see allies in the dictatorship of labor in the South. 
Rather they were entirely misled by the complaint of property from 
the Southern oligarchy. They failed to become a real party of eco- 
nomic reform and became a reaction of small property-holders against 
corporations; of a petty bourgeoisie against a new economic monarchy. 
They immediately joined Big Business in coming to an understanding 
with the South in 1876, so that by force and fraud the South overthrew 
the dictatorship of the workers. 

But this was only the immediate cause. If there had been no wide- 
spread political corruption, North and South, there would still have 
arisen an absolute difference between those who were trying to con- 
duct the new Southern state governments in the interest of the mass 
of laborers, black and white, and those North and South who were 
determined to exploit labor, both in agriculture and industry, for the 
benefit of an oligarchy. Such an oligarchy was in effect back of the 
military dictatorship which supported these very Southern labor gov- 
ernments, and which had to support them either as laborers or 
by developing among them a capitalist class. But as soon as there was 
understanding between the Southern exploiter of labor and the North- 
ern exploiter, this military support would be withdrawn; and the labor 
governments, in spite of what they had accomplished for the educa- 
tion of the masses, and in spite of the movements against waste and 
graft which they had inaugurated, would fail. Under such circum- 


stances, they had to fail, and in a large sense the immediate hope of 
American democracy failed with them. 

Let us now follow this development more in detail. In 1863 and 
1864, Abraham Lincoln had made his tentative proposals for recon- 
structing the South. He had left many things unsaid. The loyal- 
minded, consisting of as few as one-tenth of the voters whom Lincoln 
proposed to regard as a state, must naturally, to survive, be supported 
by the United States Army, until a majority of the inhabitants acqui- 
esced in the new arrangements. It was Lincoln's fond hope that this 
acquiescence might be swift and clear, but no one knew better than he 
that it might not. 

He was careful to say that Congress would certainly have voice as 
to the terms on which they would recognize the newly elected Sena- 
tors and Representatives. This proposal met the general approval of 
the country, but Congress saw danger and enacted the Wade-Davis 
Bill. This did not recognize Negro suffrage, and was not radically 
different from the Lincoln plan, except that the final power and assent 
of Congress were more prominently set forth. 

Lincoln did not oppose it. He simply did not want his hands per- 
manently tied. The bill failed, leaving Lincoln making a careful study 
of the situation, and promising another statement. He was going for- 
ward carefully, hoping for some liberal movement to show itself in 
the South, and delicately urging it. In the election of 1864, the country 
stood squarely back of him. The Northern democracy carried only 
New Jersey, Delaware and Kentucky. But he died, and Andrew John- 
son took his place. 

Thus, suddenly, April 15, 1865, Andrew Johnson found himself 
President of the United States, six days after Lee's surrender, and a 
month and a half after the 38th Congress had adjourned, March 3. 

It was the drear destiny of the Poor White South that, deserting its 
economic class and itself, it became the instrument by which democ- 
racy in the nation was done to death, race provincialism deified, and 
the world delivered to plutocracy. The man who led the way with 
unconscious paradox and contradiction was Andrew Johnson. 

Lately the early life and character of Andrew Johnson have been 
abundantly studied. He was a fanatical hater of aristocracy. "Through 
every public act of his runs one consistent, unifying thread of pur- 
pose — the advancement of the power, prosperity and liberty of the 
masses at the expense of intrenched privilege. The slaveholding aris- 
tocracy he hated with a bitter, enduring hatred born of envy and ambi- 
tion. 'If Johnson were a snake,' said his rival, the well-born Isham G. 
Harris, 'he would lie in the grass to bite the heels of the rich men's 


children.' The very thought of an aristocrat caused him to emit venom 
and lash about him in fury." * 

His political methods were those of the barn-storming demagogue. 

"Johnson's speeches were tissues of misstatement, misrepresentation, 
and insulting personalities, directed to the passions and unreasoning 
impulses of the ignorant voters; assaults upon aristocrats combined 
with vaunting of his own low origin and the dignity of manual 
labor." 2 Yet a biographer says that Johnson was "the only President 
who practiced what he preached, drawing no distinction between rich 
and poor, or high and low. . . . 

"Do not these facts furnish an explanation of Johnson's life? Do 
they not show why he had the courage to go up against caste and 
cheap aristocracy, why he dared to stand for the under-dog, whether 
Catholic, Hebrew, foreigner, mechanic, or child; and to cling like 
death to the old flag and the Union? . . . 

" 'Gladly I would lay down my life,' he wrote, 'if I could so engraft 
democracy into our general government that it would be perma- 
nent.' " 3 

To all this there is one great qualification. Andrew Johnson could 
not include Negroes in any conceivable democracy. He tried to, but 
as a poor white, steeped in the limitations, prejudices, and ambitions 
of his social class, he could not; and this is the key to his career. 

Johnson sat in Congress from 1843 to 1853, and was Senator from 
1857 to 1862. He favored the annexation of Texas as a gateway for 
Negro emigration. He was against a high tariff, championed free 
Western lands for white labor, and favored the annexation of Cuba 
for black slave labor. 

McConnell introduced a homestead bill into Congress in January, 
1846. Johnson's bill came in March. He returned to Tennessee as Gov- 
ernor, but induced the legislature to instruct members of Congress to 
vote for his bill. The bill finally passed the House but was defeated in 
the Senate, and this was repeated for several sessions. Meantime, John- 
son found himself in curious company. He was linked on the one hand 
to the Free Soilers, and in 1851 went to New York to address a Land 
Reform Association. On the other hand, the South called him social- 
istic and Wigfall of Texas dubbed him: "The vilest of Republicans, 
the reddest of Reds, a sans-culotte, for four years past he has been 
trying to please the North with his Homestead and other bills." 4 
The Abolitionists meanwhile looked askance because Johnson favored 
the bill for annexing Cuba. 

He voted against the Pacific railroad, owned eight slaves and said 
at one time: "You won't get rid of the Negro except by holding him 
in slavery." 5 In the midst of such vacillation and contradiction, small 


wonder that Lane referred to Johnson's "triumphant ignorance and 
exulting stupidity." Yet Johnson hewed doggedly to certain lines. In 
i860, he was advocating his homestead bill again. It finally passed both 
House and Senate, but Buchanan vetoed it as unconstitutional. John- 
son called the message "monstrous and absurd." At last, in June, 1862, 
after the South had withdrawn from Congress, Johnson's bill was 
passed and Lincoln signed it. 

Yet it was this same Johnson who said in the 36th Congress that if 
the Abolitionists freed the slaves and let them loose on the South, "the 
non-slaveholder would join with the slave-owner and extirpate them," 
and "if one should be more ready to join than another it would be 

Johnson early became a follower of Hinton Helper and used his 
figures. The Impending Crisis was "Andrew Johnson's vade mecum 
. — his arsenal of facts." 6 

Johnson made two violent speeches against secession in 1860-61, with 
bitter personalities against Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and their 
fellows. He called them rebels and traitors; the galleries yelled and 
the presiding officers threatened to clear them. Johnson shouted: 
"I would have them arrested, and if convicted, within the meaning 
and scope of the Constitution, by the Eternal God, I would execute 
them; Sir, treason must be punished; its enormity and the extent and 
depth of the offense must be made known!" 

Clingman of North Carolina said that Johnson's speech brought 
on the Civil War. Alexander Stephens said that it solidified the North. 
Letters came in to congratulate and to encourage "the only Union 
Senator from the South." Labor rallied to him. A Baltimore laborer 
wrote that "the poor working man will no doubt be called on to fight 
the battles of the rich." From Memphis another wrote: "It was labor 
that achieved our independence and the laborers are ready to main- 
tain it." The New York Working Man's Association passed a resolu- 
tion of thanks. 7 

Lincoln set about winning Tennessee, and as a step toward it, asked 
Andrew Johnson to go and act as Military Governor, and restore the 
state. Johnson resigned from the Senate and went to Tennessee early 
in March, 1862. He arrived in Nashville March 12, and took possession 
of the State House. His courage and sacrifice eventually redeemed the 
state and restored it to the Union. 

Several times Johnson spoke on slavery and the Negro. When he 
asked that plantations be divided in the South and lands opened in 
the West, he had in mind white men, who would thus become rich 
or at least richer. But for Negroes, he had nothing of the sort in mind, 


except the bare possibility that, if given freedom, they might continue 
to exist and not die out. 

Johnson said in January, 1864, at Nashville in reply to a question as 
to whether he was in favor of emancipation: 

"As for the Negro I am for setting him free but at the same time 
I assert that this is a white man's government. ... If whites and 
blacks can't get along together arrangements must be made to colonize 
the blacks. ... In 1843, when I was candidate for Governor, it was 
said, 'That fellow Johnson is a demagogue, is an Abolitionist.' . . . 
Because I advocated a white basis for representation — apportioning 
members of Congress according to the number of qualified voters, 
instead of embracing Negroes, they called me an Abolitionist. . . . 
What do we find today? Right goes forward; truth triumphs; justice 
is supreme; and slavery goes down. 

"In fact, the Negroes are emancipated in Tennessee today, and the 
only remaining question for us to settle, as prudent and wise men, is 
in assigning the Negro his new relation. Now, what will that be ? The 
Negro will be thrown upon society, governed by the same laws that 
govern communities, and be compelled to fall back upon his own 
resources, as all other human beings are. . . . Political freedom means 
liberty to work, and at the same time enjoy the products of one's labor. 
... If he can rise by his own energies, in the name of God, let him 
rise. In saying this, I do not argue that the Negro race is equal to the 
Anglo-Saxon. ... If the Negro is better fitted for the inferior condi- 
tion of society, the laws of nature will assign him there!" 8 

As a reward for Johnson's services and to unite the sections Lincoln 
chose Johnson as his running mate in 1864. Before the campaign June 
10, from the St. Cloud Hotel, Johnson gave his philosophy of Recon- 

"One of the chief elements of this rebellion is the opposition of the 
slave aristocracy to being ruled by men who have risen from the ranks 
of the people. This aristocracy hated Mr. Lincoln because he was of 
humble origin, a rail-splitter in early life. One of them, the private 
secretary of Howell Cobb, said to me one day, after a long conversa- 
tion, 'We people of the South will not submit to be governed by a man 
who has come up from the ranks of the common people, as Abe Lin- 
coln has.' He uttered the essential feeling and spirit of this Southern 
rebellion. Now it has just occurred to me, if this aristocracy is so vio- 
lently opposed to being governed by Mr. Lincoln, what in the name 
of conscience will it do with Lincoln and Johnson? . . . 

"I am for emancipation for two reasons: First, because it is right in 
itself; and second, because in the emancipation of the slaves, we break 


down an odious and dangerous aristocracy; I think that we ate free- 
ing more whites than blacks in Tennessee. 

"I want to see slavery broken up, and when its barriers are torn 
down, I want to see industrious, thrifty immigrants pouring in from 
all parts of the country. Come on! we need your labor, your skill, your 
capital. . . . 

"Ah, these Rebel leaders have a strong personal reason for holding 
out — to save their necks from the halter. And these leaders must feel 
the power of the government. Treason must be made odious, and the 
traitor must be punished and impoverished. Their great plantations 
must be seized and divided into small farms, and sold to honest, in- 
dustrious men. The day for protecting the lands and Negroes of these 
authors of rebellion is past. It is high time it was." 9 

During the campaign he addressed a torchlight procession of thou- 
sands of Negroes and whites. He said, October, 1864: 

"Who has not heard of the great estates of Mack Cockrill, situated 
near this city, estates whose acres are numbered by the thousand, whose 
slaves were once counted by the score? And of Mack Cockrill, 
their possessor, the great slave-owner and, of course, the leading rebel, 
who lives in the very wantonness of wealth, wrung from the sweat 
and toil and stolen wages of others, and who gave fabulous sums to 
aid Jeff Davis in overturning this Government? . . . 

"Who has not heard of the princely estates of General W. D. Hard- 
ing, who, by means of his property alone, outweighed in influence any 
other man in Tennessee, no matter what were that other's worth, or 
wisdom, or ability. Harding, too, early espoused the cause of treason 
and made it his boast that he had contributed, and directly induced 
others to contribute, millions of dollars in aid of that unholy cause. 
... It is wrong that Mack Cockrill and W. D. Harding, by means 
of forced and unpaid labor, should have monopolized so large a share 
of the lands and wealth of Tennessee; and I say if their immense 
plantations were divided up and parceled out amongst a number of 
free, industrious, and honest farmers, it would give more good citizens 
to the Commonwealth, increase the wages of our mechanics, enrich 
the markets of our city, enliven all the arteries of trade, improve soci- 
ety, and conduce to the greatness and glory of the State. 

"The representatives of this corrupt, and if you will permit me 
almost to swear a little, this damnable aristocracy, taunt us with our 
desire to see justice done, and charge us with favoring Negro equality. 
Of all living men they should be the last to mouth that phrase; and, 
even when uttered in their hearing, it should cause their cheeks to 
tinge and burn with shame. Negro equality, indeed! Why, pass any 
day along the sidewalks of High Street where these aristocrats more 


particularly dwell — these aristocrats, whose sons are now in the bands 
of guerillas and cut-throats who prowl and rob and murder around 
our city — pass by their dwellings, I say, and you will see as many 
mulatto as Negro children, the former bearing an unmistakable re- 
semblance to their aristocratic owners. . . . Thank God, the war has 
ended all this ... a war that has freed more whites than blacks. . . . 
Suppose the Negro is set free and we have less cotton, we will raise 
more wool, hemp, flax and silk. ... It is all an idea that the world 
can't get along without cotton. And, as is suggested by my friend be- 
hind me, whether we attain perfection in the raising of cotton or not, 
I think we ought to stimulate the cultivation of hemp (great and re- 
newed laughter); for we ought to have more of it and a far better 
material, a stronger fiber, with which to make a stronger rope. For, 
not to be malicious or malignant, I am free to say that I believe many 
who were driven into this Rebellion, are repentant; but I say of the 
leaders, the instigators, the conscious, intelligent traitors, they ought 
to be hung." 10 

" 'Looking at this vast crowd of colored people,' continued the Gov- 
ernor, 'and reflecting through what a storm of persecution and 
obloquy they are compelled to pass, I am almost induced to wish that, 
as in the days of old, a Moses might arise who should lead them safely 
to their promised land of freedom and happiness.' 

" 'You are our Moses,' shouted several voices, and the exclamation 
was caught up and cheered until the Capitol rung again. . . . 

" 'Well, then,' replied the speaker, 'humble and unworthy as I am, 
if no other better shall be found, I will indeed be your Moses, and lead 
you through the Red Sea of war and bondage to a fairer future of 
liberty and peace. I speak now as one who feels the world his country, 
and all who love equal rights his friends. I speak, too, as a citizen of 
Tennessee. I am here on my own soil; and here I mean to stay and 
fight this great battle of truth and justice to a triumphant end. Rebel- 
lion and slavery shall, by God's good help, no longer pollute our State. 
Loyal men, whether white or black, shall alone control her destinies; 
and when this strife in which we are all engaged is past, I trust, I 
know, we shall have a better state of things, and shall all rejoice that 
honest labor reaps the fruit of its own industry, and that every man 
has a fair chance in the race of life.' " u 

Winston interpreted the latter part of this speech as directed to the 
whites, when clearly he was speaking directly to the colored people; 
but he was afterward unwilling to live up to its promises. As a matter 
of fact, he favored emancipation "in order to save the Union and to 
free the white man and no further. 'Damn the Negroes,' he once said 


when charged with race equality. 'I am fighting those traitorous aris- 
tocrats, their masters.' " 12 

Johnson appeared to take the oath of office as Vice-President so 
drunk he was taken into prolonged seclusion after a maudlin speech; 
his resignation was discussed. He was not a habitual drunkard, al- 
though he drank "three or four glasses of Robertson's Canada Whis- 
key" some days. In 1848 Johnson writes that he had been "on a kind 
of bust — not a big drunk." 13 Both of Johnson's sons became drunk- 
ards and were cut off before they reached middle life. Yet Lincoln was 

"Oh, well, don't you bother about Andy Johnson's drinking. He 
made a bad slip the other day, but I have known Andy a great many 
years, and he ain't no drunkard." Johnson was deeply humiliated by 
the inauguration episode and perhaps here began his alienation from 
those who might have influenced him best. 

Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, says that he met Vice- 
President Johnson in Richmond. "He took me aside and spoke with 
great earnestness about the necessity of not taking the Confederates 
back without some conditions or without some punishment. He in- 
sisted that their sins had been enormous, and that if they were let 
back into the Union without any punishment the effect would be 
very bad. He said they might be very dangerous in the future. The 
Vice-President talked to me in this strain for fully twenty minutes, I 
should think — an impassioned, earnest speech on the subject of pun- 
ishing rebels." 14 

His sudden induction as President was marked by modesty and 
genuine feeling. Carl Schurz says that the inaugural speech of Andrew 
Johnson, in 1865, was very pleasing to the liberals of the North, and 
made them believe that he was going to allow the Negro to have some 
part in the reconstruction of the states. 

For a month after coming to the Presidency, Johnson indulged in 
speech-making, and his words were still so severe that the anti-slavery 
people became uneasy, feeling that Johnson would give his attention 
primarily to punishing the whites rather than protecting the Negroes. 
April 21, 1865, he said in an interview with some citizens of Indiana: 

"They [the Rebel leaders] must not only be punished, but their social 
power must be destroyed. . . . And I say that, after making treason 
odious, every Union man and the government should be remunerated 
out of the pockets of those who have inflicted this great suffering upon 
the country." This was exactly the thesis of Thaddeus Stevens enunci- 
ated in September of the same year. 

A number of Virginians visited Johnson in July and complained 
that they were seeking credits in the North and West, but could get 


no consideration while they remained under the ban of the govern- 
ment. The President replied: " 'It was the wealthy men who dragooned 
the people into secession; I know how this thing was done. You rich 
men used the press and bullied your little men to force the state into 
secession.' He spoke as a poor white for poor whites and the planters 
left in gloom." 

He kept on insisting upon punishment for the South, and not only 
personal punishment but economic punishment, so that many con- 
servatives were afraid that they had elected to the Presidency a radical 
who would seriously attack the South. 

This would have been true but for one thing: the Southern poor 
white had his attitude toward property and income seriously modified 
by the presence of the Negro. Even Abraham Lincoln was unable for 
a long time to conceive of free, poor, black citizens as voters in the 
United States. The problem of the Negroes, as he faced it, worried 
him, and he made repeated efforts to see if in some way they could 
not be sent off to Africa or to foreign lands. Johnson had no such 
broad outlook. Negroes to him were just Negroes, and even as he ex- 
pressed his radical ideas of helping the poor Southerners, he seldom 
envisaged Negroes as a part of the poor. 

Lincoln came to know Negroes personally. He came to recognize 
their manhood. He praised them generously as soldiers, and suggested 
that they be admitted to the ballot. Johnson, on the contrary, could 
never regard Negroes as men. "He has all the narrowness and igno- 
rance of a certain class of whites who have always looked upon the 
colored race as out of the pale of humanity." 15 

The Northern press had been quite satisfied with Lincoln's attitude. 
He had served liberty and America well. "Lincoln," said Senator 
Doolittle, representing industry in the West, "would have dealt with 
the Rebels as an indulgent father deals with his erring children. 
Johnson would deal with them more like a stern and incorruptible 
judge. Thus in a moment has the scepter of power passed from the 
hand of flesh to the hand of iron." 

At a cabinet meeting with Mr. Lincoln on the last day of his life, 
Friday, April 14, Stanton submitted the draft of a plan for the restora- 
tion of governments in the South. The draft applied expressly to two 
states, but was intended as a model for others. The President sug- 
gested a revision, and the subject was postponed until Tuesday the 

Andrew Johnson became President, and on Sunday, April 16, Stan- 
ton read his draft to Sumner and other gentlemen. Sumner interrupted 
the reading with the inquiry: "'Whether any provision was made for 
enfranchising the colored men,' saying, also, that 'unless the black man 


is given the right to vote his freedom is a mockery.' Stanton depre- 
cated the agitation of the subject . . . but Sumner insisted that the 
black man's right to vote was 'the essence — the great essential.' Stan- 
ton's draft, now confined to North Carolina, was considered in the 
Cabinet May 9, when it appeared with a provision for suffrage in the 
election of members of a constitutional convention for the State. It 
included 'the loyal citizens of the United States.' This paragraph, it 
appears, Stanton had accepted April 16, as an amendment from Sum- 
ner and Colfax. . . . He admitted that it was intended to include 
Negroes as well as white men." 16 

Stanton invited an expression of opinion; several members of the 
Cabinet were absent. Stanton, Dennison and Speed favored the inclu- 
sion; McCulloch, Welles and Usher were against it. The President 
expressed no opinion, but Sumner was certain of the President's deci- 
sion in favor of Negro suffrage. 

Sumner sought to keep close to Johnson. He and Chase had an in- 
terview with him a week after he had taken the oath of office. Johnson 
was reserved but sympathetic and they left light-hearted. A few days 
later, when the President and Senator Sumner were alone together, 
the President said: '"On this question [that of suffrage] there is no 
difference between us; you and I are alike.' Sumner expressed his joy 
and gratitude that the President had taken this position, and that as a 
consequence there would thus be no division in the Union party; and 
the President replied, 'I mean to keep you all together.' As he walked 
away that evening, Sumner felt that the battle of his own life was 
ended." 1T 

He wrote to Bright, May 1, 1865, encouragingly: "Last evening, I 
had a long conversation with him [Johnson], mainly on the rebel 
states and how they shall be tranquillized. Of course my theme is 
justice to the colored race. He accepted this idea completely, and in- 
deed went so far as to say 'that there is no difference between us.' You 
understand that the question whether rebel states shall be treated as 
military provinces or territories is simply one of form, with a view to 
the great result. It is the result that I aim at! and I shall never stickle 
on any intermediate question if that is secured. He deprecates haste; 
is unwilling that states should be precipitated back; thinks there must 
be a period of probation, but that meanwhile all loyal people, without 
distinction of color, must be treated as citizens, and must take part in 
any proceedings for reorganization. He doubts at present the expedi- 
ency of announcing this from Washington lest it should give a handle 
to party, but is willing it should be made known to the people in the 
rebel states. The Chief Justice started yesterday on a visit to North 
Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and New Orleans, and will on his 


way touch the necessary strings, so far as he can. I anticipate much 
from this journey. His opinions are fixed, and he is well informed with 
regard to those of the President. I would not be too sanguine, but I 
should not be surprised if we had this great question settled before the 
next meeting of Congress — I mean by this that we had such expres- 
sion of opinion and acts as will forever conclude it. My confidence is 
founded in part upon the essential justice of our aims and the neces- 
sity of the case. With the President as well disposed as he shows him- 
self, and the Chief Justice as positive, we must prevail. Will not all 
this sanctify our war beyond any in history?" 

The next day writing to Lieber, Sumner quoted Johnson as saying 
that "colored persons are to have the right to suffrage; that no state 
can be precipitated into the Union; that rebel states must go through 
a term of probation. All this he had said to me before. Ten days ago, 
the Chief Justice and myself visited him in the evening to speak of 
these things. I was charmed by his sympathy, which was entirely dif- 
ferent from his predecessor's. The Chief Justice is authorized to say 
wherever he is what the President desires, and to do everything he can 
to promote organization without distinction of color. The President 
desires that the movement should appear to proceed from the people. 
This is in conformity with his general ideas; but he thinks it will dis- 
arm the party at home. I told him that while I doubted if the work 
could be effectively done without federal authority, I regarded the 
modus operandi as an inferior question; and that I should be content, 
provided equality before the law was secured for all without distinc- 
tion of color. I said during this winter that the rebel states could not 
come back, except on the footing of the Declaration of Independence, 
and the complete recognition of human rights. I feel more than ever 
confident that all this will be fulfilled. And then what a regenerated 
land! I had looked for a bitter contest on this question; but with the 
President on our side, it will be carried by simple avoirdupois." 

Chase wrote Johnson from South Carolina the same month: "Suf- 
frage to loyal blacks; I find that readiness and even desire for it is in 
proportion to the loyalty of those who express opinions. Nobody dis- 
sents, vehemently; while those who have suffered from rebellion and 
rejoice with their whole hearts in the restoration of the National Au- 
thority, are fast coming to the conclusion they will find their own 
surest safety in the proposed extension. . . . 

"All seem embarrassed about first steps. I do not entertain the slight- 
est doubt that they would all welcome some simple recommendation 
from yourself, and would adopt readily any plan which you would 
suggest. . . . 

"I am anxious that you should have the lead in this work. It is my 


deliberate judgment that nothing will so strengthen you with the 
people or bring so much honor to your name throughout the world as 
some such short address as I suggested before leaving Washington. 
Just say to the people: 'Reorganize your state governments. I will aid 
you in the enrollment of the loyal citizens; you will not expect me to 
discriminate among men equally loyal; once enrolled, vote for dele- 
gates to the Convention to reform your State Constitution. I will aid 
you in collecting and declaring their suffrages. Your convention and 
yourselves must do the rest; but you may count on the support of the 
National Government in all things constitutionally expedient.' " 18 

In April and May of 1866, Tennessee had confined the right to 
vote to whites. The Tennessee Senate refused a suffrage bill which 
allowed all blacks and whites of legal age to vote, but excluded after 
1875 all who could not read. Sumner wanted Johnson to insist on 
Negro suffrage in Tennessee, but Johnson explained that if he were in 
Tennessee he would take a stand, but that he could not in Washington. 

Sumner remained in Washington half through May and saw the 
President almost daily, always seizing opportunity to present his views 
on Reconstruction, and insisting on suffrage for Negroes. 

Just before leaving Washington, Sumner had a final interview with 
the President. He found him cordial and apparently unchanged. Sum- 
ner apologized for repeating his views expressed before. Johnson said, 
with a smile, "Have I not always listened to you?" Sumner, as he left, 
"assured his friends and correspondents that the cause he had at heart 
was safe" with Andrew Johnson. 19 

Disturbing signs, however, began to occur. Carl Schurz wrote in 
May concerning the plans of Southern leaders in Mississippi, Georgia 
and North Carolina. Thaddeus Stevens was alarmed at the President's 
recognition of the Pierpont government of Virginia. A caucus was, 
therefore, called at the National Hotel at Washington, May 12, to pre- 
vent the administration from going completely astray. Wade and Sum- 
ner said the President was in no danger, and that he was in favor of 
Negro suffrage. 

Sumner may have been over-sanguine and read into Johnson's words 
more than Johnson intended, but it is certain that Sumner received a 
definite understanding that President Johnson stood for real emanci- 
pation and Negro suffrage. 

Here then was Andrew Johnson in 1865, born at the bottom of soci- 
ety, and during his early life a radical defender of the poor, the land- 
less and the exploited. In the heyday of his early political career, he 
railed against land monopoly in the South, and after the Civil War, 
wanted the land of the monopolists divided among peasant proprie- 


Suddenly, by the weird magic of history, he becomes military dic- 
tator of a nation. He becomes the man by whom the greatest moral 
and economic revolution that ever took place in the United States, and 
perhaps in modern times, was to be put into effect. He becomes the 
real emancipator of four millions of black slaves, who have suffered 
more than anything that he had experienced in his earlier days. They 
not only have no lands; they have not owned even their bodies, nor 
their clothes, nor their tools. They have been exploited down to the 
ownership of their own families; they have been poor by law, and 
ignorant by force. What more splendid opportunity could the cham- 
pion of labor and the exploited have had to start a nation towards 
freedom ? 

Johnson took over Lincoln's cabinet with an Anti-Abolitionist Whig, 
a Pro-Slavery Democrat, and a liberal student of industry, among 
others. This cabinet lasted a little over a year when early in July, 1866, 
three members, Dennison, Harlan and Speed, resigned, being unwill- 
ing to oppose Congress. 

In all their logical sequence, the Reconstruction policies now associ- 
ated with Johnson's name were laid down by Seward, and his logic 
overwhelmed Johnson. As Stevens explained: "Seward entered into 
him, and ever since they have been running down steep places into the 

The Cabinet met at Seward's house May 9, and on May 29, John- 
son issued a Proclamation of Amnesty which showed the Seward in- 
fluence. Indeed, nothing was left, apparently, of Johnson's liberalism, 
except the exclusion from amnesty, not simply of the leaders of the 
Confederacy, but of the rich — those worth $20,000 or more. Seward 
opposed this, but it was the only thing that he yielded to Johnson's 
liberalism. He early convinced Johnson that Reconstruction was a mat- 
ter for the President to settle and especially he opened the door to his 
thorough conversion when the power of further pardons was put into 
Johnson's hand. 

"Seward, who had remained secretary after Lincoln's death, had used 
all the powers of his persuasive eloquence to satisfy President Johnson 
that all now to be done was simply to restore the Union by at once re- 
admitting the 'States lately in rebellion' to their full constitutional 
functions as regular States of the Union, and that then, being encour- 
aged by this mark of confidence, the late master class in the South 
could be trusted with the recognition and protection of the emanci- 
pated slaves. That Mr. Seward urged such advice upon the President, 
there is good reason for believing. Not only was it common report, 
but it accorded also strikingly with Mr. Seward's singular turn of 
mind concerning the slavery question. As after the outbreak of the 
secession movement he peremptorily relegated the slavery question to 


the background in spite of its evident importance in the Civil War 
and of the influence it would inevitably exercise upon the opinion and 
attitude of foreign nations, so he may have been forgetful of the na- 
tional duty of honor to secure the rights of the freedmen and the safety 
of the Southern Union men in his impatient desire to 'restore the 
Union' in point of form." 20 

Johnson was transformed. From the champion of peasant labor, 
he saw himself as the restorer of national unity, and the benefactor 
and almsgiver to those very elements in the South which had formerly 
despised him. Of his real role as emancipator, and the one who was to 
give effective freedom to Negroes, he still had not the slightest idea. 
He could not conceive of Negroes as men. And equally, he had no 
adequate idea of the industrial transformation that was going on in 
the North. There were, of course, the inevitable scars of the war: the 
loss of a million men and twelve billion dollars in property; eventual 
pensions and indirect losses; the revolution in Southern agriculture; the 
universal lowering of ethical standards which always follows war. The 
West was uneasy on account of taxes, debt and the money situation. 
In New York and Boston, men engaged in foreign commerce wanted 
speedy restoration of the South and a reduction in the tariff to in- 
crease their business. These complicated threads varied and changed 
as time went on. But when the 39th Congress met, the war business 
boom was still on; failures had disappeared; prices had increased. 
Wealth was being concentrated among the manufacturers, merchants, 
financiers and speculators. There were great amounts of waiting capi- 
tal and all of these interests wanted the war stopped, and the South 

Sumner had not left Washington ten days before his hopes for a 
just reconstruction on the basis of Negro suffrage were killed by the 
President's proclamation. 

Johnson's plan of reconstruction included the abolition of slavery, 
the repudiation of war debts, the nullification of secession ordinances, 
and the appointment of provisional governors to help in the recon- 
struction of civil government. Only those white folks who could take 
the loyal oath would take part in this reconstruction. In other words, 
this was practically Lincoln's plan and it was also the Wade-Davis 
plan, save that there was no open or expressed recognition of any power 
or function of Congress except as judging the legality of elections. 
Johnson did not eventually even admit, as Lincoln apparently had 
agreed, that Congress was final judge as to whether these states could 
hold legal elections. 

Congress had adjourned before Lee's surrender, and it was widely 
believed that had Lincoln lived, a special session would have been 


summoned. The Seward-Johnson compromise proposed not to call 
Congress. In one way, the decision was shrewd. It gave the adminis- 
tration nine months to carry out its policy, and if the policy was suc- 
cessful, Congress would, when it met, be faced by a fait accompli, a 
nation at peace, a South restored with slavery abolished. What more 
could the nation want ? 

On the other hand, the attempt was full of risk. Already the power 
of the Executive had gone far beyond the dreams of living men. It 
must be curbed sooner or later. The military dictatorship which had 
carried on the war must, as soon as possible after the war, be tempered 
by democracy. The attempt to do even what the nation wanted with- 
out this was foolish. An attempt to override the will of the nation was 
suicidal, and yet that was precisely what Seward and Johnson eventu- 
ally attempted. May 29, the Declaration of Amnesty was issued; and 
that same month, Provisional Governors were appointed for North 
Carolina and Mississippi. In June, Georgia, Texas, Alabama and South 
Carolina were given Governors, and in July, Florida. Thus, three 
months after the assassination of Lincoln, Reconstruction was in opera- 
tion; the Union party divided in opinion; the Northern Democrats 
encouraged, and the South particularly encouraged. 

The South thereupon turned its attention on Johnson and brought 
to bear a second influence next in power to Seward's and in the end 
exceeding it. Southern leaders descended upon the President; not sim- 
ply the former slave barons but new representatives of the poor 
whites. In less than nine months after the Proclamation of Amnesty, 
14,000 prominent persons are said to have received pardons from the 

No wonder the attitude of Johnson towards the South and the lead- 
ers of the rebellion was transformed. The very inferiority complex 
which made him hate the white planter concealed a secret admiration 
for his arrogance and address. Carl Schurz was coldly received when 
he returned from the Southern trip which Johnson had urged upon 

"Arrived at Washington, I reported myself at once at the White 
House. The President's private secretary, who seemed surprised to see 
me, announced me to the President, who sent out word that he was 
busy. When would it please the President to receive me? The private 
secretary could not tell, as the President's time was much occupied by 
urgent business. I left the ante-room, but called again the next morn- 
ing. The President was still busy. I asked the private secretary to sub- 
mit to the President that I had returned from a three months' journey 
made at the President's personal request, that I thought it my duty 
respectfully to report myself back, and that I should be obliged to the 


President if he would let me know whether, and, if so, when, he would 
receive me to that end. The private secretary went in again and 
brought out the answer that the President would see me in an hour 
or so. At the appointed time, I was admitted. 

"The President received me without a smile of welcome. His mien 
was sullen. I said that I had returned from the journey which I had 
made in obedience to his demand and was ready to give him, in addi- 
tion to the communications I had already sent him, such further in- 
formation as was in my possession. A moment's silence followed. Then 
he inquired about my health. I thanked him for the inquiry and hoped 
the President's health was good. He said it was. Another pause, which 
I brought to an end by saying that I wished to supplement the letters 
I had written to him from the South with an elaborate report giving 
my experiences and conclusions in a connected shape. The President 
looked up and said that I need not go to the trouble of writing out 
such a general report on his account. I replied that it would be no 
trouble at all, but I considered it a duty. The President did not answer. 
The silence became awkward and I bowed myself out. 

"President Johnson evidently wished to suppress my testimony as to 
the condition of things in the South. I resolved not to let him do so. 
I had conscientiously endeavored to see Southern conditions as they 
were. I had not permitted any political considerations or any precon- 
ceived opinions on my part, to obscure my perception and discernment 
in the slightest degree. I had told the truth as I learned it and under- 
stood it, with the severest accuracy, and I thought it due to the coun- 
try that the truth be known. 

"Among my friends in Washington there were different opinions as 
to how the striking change in President Johnson's attitude had been 
brought about. Some told me that during the summer the White 
House had been fairly besieged by Southern men and women of high 
social standing who had told the President that the only element of 
trouble in the South consisted in a lot of fanatical abolitionists who 
excited the Negroes with all sorts of dangerous notions, and that all 
would be well if he would only restore the Southern State govern- 
ments as quickly as possible, according to his own plan as laid down 
in his North Carolina proclamation, and that he was a great man to 
whom they looked up as their savior. Now it was thought that Mr. 
Johnson, the plebeian who before the war had been treated with 
undisguised contempt by the slave-holding aristocracy, could not with- 
stand the subde flattery of the same aristocracy when they flocked 
around him as humble suppliants cajoling his vanity." 21 

In fact, personally, Johnson liked the slave-holders. He admired their 
manners; he enjoyed their carriage and clothes. They were quite nat- 


urally his ideal of what a gentleman should be. He could not help 
being tremendously flattered when they noticed him and actually 
sued for his favor. As compared with Northerners, he found them 
free, natural and expansive, rather than cold, formal and hypocritical. 

Johnson's change of mind during the last ten days of May, 1865, 
was probably due to the flatteries of Southern leaders; to the notice 
taken of his intoxication in the Senate by Sumner and others; to the 
counsels of Preston King and the Blairs who sheltered him after that 
unfortunate exhibition; and above all to Seward. Johnson's program 
swung swiftly into its stride. 

Already May 9, the laws of the United States had been put in oper- 
ation in Virginia and the Alexandria government thus recognized. 
Johnson recognized the reconstruction already accomplished in Louisi- 
ana, Arkansas and Tennessee. So that by mid-summer all the seceded 
states had been reconstructed under the Johnson plan except Texas. 
During the autumn, summer and winter of 1865, elections for dele- 
gates to constitutional conventions were ordered in Mississippi, Ala- 
bama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, on the 
basis of white suffrage. Before Congress met, these conventions had 
all passed ordinances repealing the secession ordinances, or pronounc- 
ing them null and void. All except Mississippi and South Carolina 
had repudiated the Confederate debt. All had amended their consti- 
tutions abolishing slavery or recognizing its disappearance. State of- 
ficers and representatives in Congress had been elected. Senators had 
also been chosen, except in Florida. All the states had adopted the 
Thirteenth Amendment, except Florida and Mississippi; North Caro- 
lina had adopted the amendment with reservations; Florida adopted 
the amendment with reservations December 18, and elected Senators. 

Against this suddenly marshaled and quickly executed plan of 
Johnson and his advisers, there was at the time no organized opposi- 
tion. Congress was unquestionably determined to have the last word 
in the matter but not decided as to what the word would be. The 
Abolitionists wanted the freedom of the slaves guaranteed, and some 
of them saw Negro suffrage as the only method of accomplishing it, 
while still fewer recognized that a minimum of land and capital 
was absolutely necessary even to make the ballot effective. The ma- 
jority of Northerners simply wanted to get rid of the question as 
quickly as possible. They were disposed to agree in the main with 
Johnson, but they were afraid that he was moving too fast, and that 
the South was returning to the Union without guarantees, either so 
far as the freedmen were concerned, or with regard to the problem 
of debt, the tariff, and national finance. 

Charles Sumner, representing the abolition-democracy, agitated the 


question all summer. He brought up the matter on the streets, at 
dinner, and in society. He wrote his views for the Atlantic Monthly 
and had it and his speeches distributed widely. On June 21, 1865, 
there was a public meeting in Philadelphia, on Negro suffrage, at 
which reports were read of reaction in the South. Sumner wrote to 
the members of Johnson's cabinet and urged them to change their 
course of action and not to follow the advice of Seward. But, al- 
though four members of the cabinet were sympathetic, they took no 
action, and Sumner wrote to Lieber on August 11: "They were all 
courtiers, as if they were councilors of the King." 

Stevens, Davis and Wade were in despair against an executive who 
had both military power and the power of patronage and was as yet 
unmoved by any unity of opinion in the North. Moreover, it did 
not seem wise to make as yet a fight on the basis of Negro suffrage. 
Too few Northern people agreed with it. Most public men and jour- 
nalists gave no support to Sumner's demand for Negro suffrage. The 
Governor of Indiana denounced it; the Governor of Massachusetts 
was sure of the President's honesty of purpose; the editor of the New 
York Evening Post advised against any coercive action by Congress 
in the matter of suffrage, and the New York Times stood absolutely 
against it. 

"Is there no way to arrest the insane course of the President in re- 
organization?" asked Stevens, in the summer of 1865. "If something 
is not done," wrote Sumner, "the President will be crowned King 
before Congress meets." 

The abolitionists opened a campaign to convert the North to Negro 
suffrage, carrying on a propaganda with the money of industry and 
the logic of abolition-democracy. The speeches of Sumner, Kelley, 
Phillips and Douglass on Negro suffrage were printed and sent broad- 
cast. Stearns wrote: "I am distributing 10,000 copies to anti-slavery 
men in all the free states; but desiring to increase the number to 
100,000 or more, invite you to aid in its circulation." 22 He raised $50,- 
000 in the fall of 1865 to send out 100,000 newspapers and 50,000 pam- 
phlets a week, and himself printed between 20,000 and 40,000 copies of 
Sumner's Worcester speech, October 12, 1865. Later the Schurz report 
and his newspaper articles formed strong documents. 

Yet the conversion of public opinion in the United States to Negro 
citizenship and suffrage was long and difficult. There were harassing 
questions that presented themselves to the majority of people in the 
North: Could a government, by united and determined effort, raise 
the Negroes to full American citizenship? Of course it could, if they 
were men; but were they men? Even if they were men, was it good 
policy thus to raise a great new working, voting class? On this point 


there was less open argument; but it lay in the minds of business men, 
and influenced their outlook and action. 

Johnson sensed the trend toward Negro suffrage and taking a leaf 
from Lincoln's book, sought to stem it. But Johnson's mind was not 
like Lincoln's. Lincoln moved forward to Negro suffrage; Johnson, 
alarmed, retreated to it. August 15, he had wired to his nominee, 
Sharkey, Provisional Governor of Mississippi: 

"If you could extend the elective franchise to all persons of color 
who can read the Constitution of the United States in English and 
write their names, and to all persons of color who own real estate 
valued at not less than two hundred and fifty dollars, and pay taxes 
thereon, you would completely disarm the adversary and set an ex- 
ample the other states will follow. This you can do with perfect 
safety, and you thus place the Southern States, in reference to free 
persons of color, upon the same basis with the free States. I hope and 
trust your convention will do this, and, as a consequence, the Radicals, 
who are wild upon Negro franchise, will be completely foiled in their 
attempt to keep the Southern States from renewing their relations 
to the Union by not accepting their senators and representatives." 23 

Blaine says that this advice was sent to other provisional governors, 
but nothing came of it, chiefly because Johnson did not insist and his 
heart was not in the suggestion. 

Sumner's words showed that union between Northern industrialists 
and abolition-democracy had been growing during the summer. After 
the autumn elections, Sumner sent a long telegram to President John- 
son. On the Saturday evening before Congress met, he was with him 
two hours. He found him "changed in temper and purpose ... no 
longer sympathetic, or even kindly," but "harsh, petulant and unreason- 
able." Near the end of the interview, there was a colloquy, in which the 
President reminded the Senator of murders in Massachusetts and 
assaults in Boston as an offset to outrages in the South visited on 
Negroes and white Union men, under the inspiration of political or 
race animosity. The two parted that evening not to meet again — the 
senator leaving "with the painful conviction that the President's whole 
soul was set as a flint against the good cause, and that by assassination 
of Abraham Lincoln, the rebellion had vaulted into the Presidential 
chair." 24 

Meantime, the Massachusetts Republican convention approved 
Negro suffrage as a condition of Reconstruction, and they were fol- 
lowed by Vermont, Iowa, and Minnesota. The other Republican con- 
ventions were not explicit, but the conviction grew in the North 
that state governments in the South, which would curb the political 


power of ex-Confederates and insure the freedom of Negroes, could 
not be established without Negro suffrage. 

Sumner led in spreading this opinion, stressing naturally the rights 
of Negroes. He wrote to Mr. Bright, November 14: 

"The President's 'experiment' appears to be breaking down; but 
at what fearful cost! The Rebels have once more been put on their 
legs; the freedmen and the Unionists are down. This is very sad. 
I cannot be otherwise than unhappy as I think of it. Our session is 
uncertain. Nobody can tell certainly what pressure the President will 
bring to bear on Congress, and how Congress can stand it. I think 
that Congress will insist upon time — this will be our first demand, 
and then generally upon adequate guarantees. There are unpleasant 
stories from Washington; but we must persevere to the end." 25 

In October, Johnson began openly to argue against Negro suffrage. 
In an interview with George L. Stearns of Massachusetts, he reminded 
him that Negro suffrage could not have been argued in the North 
seven years before and that the South must have time to understand 
its new position. 

"If I interfered with the vote in the rebel states, to dictate that no 
Negro shall vote, I might do the same for my own purpose in Penn- 
sylvania. Our only safety lies in allowing each state to control the 
right of voting by its own laws, and we have the power to control the 
rebel states if they go wrong. . . . 

"My position here is different from what it would be if I were in 
Tennessee. There I should try to introduce Negro suffrage gradually; 
first, those who had served in the army; those who could read and 
write; and perhaps a property qualification for others, say $200 or 
$250. It would not do to let the Negro have universal suffrage now; 
it would breed a war of races." 26 

He went on to develop this thesis which was a favorite one with 
him: that Negroes and poor whites naturally hated each other; and 
that the outrages in the South were chiefly of poor whites on Negroes, 
and Negroes on poor whites; and if suffrage was given the Negro, 
he would vote with the master and thus precipitate a race war in the 
South. That there was truth in this fear, the subsequent history of 
Reconstruction proved; but it did not turn out as Andrew Johnson 

Johnson had little knowledge of Negroes; although he had owned a 
few slaves, he accepted most of the current Southern patterns. He 
believed that the Negro was lazy and could not survive freedom. 
He was afraid he might be tempted to lawlessness and insurrection. 
He spoke to certain colored folk May 11, 1865, according to the 
Philadelphia Press of May 20, and stated that he had to "deplore the 


existence of an idea among them that they have nothing to do but to 
fall back upon the government for support in order that they may be 
taken care of in idleness and debauchery." October 10, 1865, he talked 
to the First Colored Regiment of the District of Columbia troops who 
had recently returned from the South. He congratulated them on serv- 
ing with patience and endurance and exhorted them to be tranquil and 
peaceful now that the war was ended: 

"Freedom is not a mere idea. . . . Freedom is not simply the princi- 
ple to live in idleness. Liberty does not mean merely to resort to the 
low saloons and other places of disreputable character. Freedom and 
liberty does not mean that people ought to live in licentiousness; but 
liberty means simply to be industrious and to be virtuous, to be up- 
right in all our deals and relations with men. . . . You must give 
evidence that you are competent for the rights that the government 
has guaranteed you. . . . 

"The institution of slavery is overthrown. But another part remains 
to be solved, and that is, can four millions of people, reared as they 
have been, with all the prejudices of the whites — can they take their 
places in the community, and be made to work harmoniously and 
congruously in our system? This is a problem to be considered. Are 
the digestive powers of the American government sufficient to receive 
this element in a new shape, and digest it and make it work health- 
fully upon the system that has incorporated it?" 

He then hinted at colonization of the Negro population: 

"If it should be so that the two races cannot agree and live in peace 
and prosperity, and the laws of Providence require that they should 
be separated — in that event, looking to the far distant future, and trust- 
ing in God that it may never come — if it should come, Providence, 
that works mysteriously, but unerringly and certainly, will point out 
the way, and the mode, and the manner by which these people are 
to be separated, and they are to be taken to their land of inheritance 
and promise, for such a one is before them. Hence we are making the 
experiment." 2T 

Congress met in December, 1865, with the determination to control 
the reconstruction of the Union. And in this there is no question but 
that Congress was right. If the nation was going backward to the 
same status in which it was before the war, it was conceivable that this 
might be done by executive action. But there were two tremendous 
changes that made this unthinkable: one was the abolition of slavery, 
and the other was the new political power which the emancipation 
of these slaves would confer upon the South. Moreover, there appeared 
from the South, demanding seats at the opening of Congress, the Vice- 
President of the Confederacy, four Confederate generals, five Con- 


federate colonels, six Confederate cabinet officers, and fifty-eight Con- 
federate Congressmen, none of whom was able to take the oath of 
allegiance. "The case of Alex H. Stephens, late Vice-president of the 
Confederacy, was especially aggravating. Four months before he had 
been a prisoner at Fort Warren. Pardoned by the President, he waited 
not a moment to repent and returned to Georgia, was elected to the 
United States Senate, and was now asking admission — asking to gov- 
ern the country he had been trying to destroy." 28 Moreover one of the 
worst of the new black codes was passed in Mississippi in November. 

Thaddeus Stevens took immediate lead. He called in caucus twenty 
or thirty of his followers, December 1 ; on December 2, the Republican 
caucus met, and Stevens submitted his plan: 

1. To claim the whole question of Reconstruction as the exclusive 
business of Congress. 

2. To regard the steps taken by the President as only provisional. 

3. Each House to postpone consideration of the admission of mem- 
bers from Southern states. 

4. And that a Joint Committee of Fifteen be appointed to inquire 
into the condition of the former Confederate states. 

Without waiting even for the reception of the President's message, 
Stevens proposed in the House a resolution for a Joint Committee 
of Fifteen members of the House and Senate to "inquire into the con- 
dition of the states which formed the so-called Confederate States of 
America, and report whether they or any of them are entitled to be 
represented in either House of Congress, with leave to report at any 
time by bill or otherwise; and until such report shall have been made 
and finally acted upon by Congress, no member shall be received 
into either House from any of the said so-called Confederate States; 
and all papers relating to the representation of the said states shall 
be referred to the said committee without debate." 29 

By vote of 129-35 with 18 not voting, the rules were suspended and 
this resolution passed. This was the first test of political strength in 
the new Congress. 

The Senate did not take up the matter until December 12. The joint 
resolution was changed to a concurrent resolution in order to make 
the approval of the President unnecessary. The section of the resolu- 
tion concerning the reception of members and reference of all papers 
was objected to and the resolution was amended so as to direct the 
committee "to inquire into the condition of the States which formed 
the so-called Confederate States of America, and report whether they, 
or any of them, are entitled to be represented in either House of 
Congress, with leave to report at any time by bill or otherwise." 30 

This amended form the House concurred in, but passed another 


House resolution to admit no Southern members, and to refer all mo- 
tions and papers. Eventually, Stevens had his way, and after Johnson's 
speech of February 22, the Senate assented to excluding representatives 
from the South until both Houses agreed. 

Industry was uneasy at the Stevens plan. The New York Herald 
claimed it created lack of business confidence North and South. Such 
a lack of confidence, of course, would hinder economic development 
in the South, and to that extent limit New York's commercial pros- 
perity. Commerce was especially alarmed lest Thaddeus Stevens should 
use his machine for carrying out his scheme of confiscation of South- 
ern lands. Such wholesale confiscation, capital could not contemplate. 
Local harmony, law and order, the development of the vast industrial 
resources of the South, seemed wisest in New York. 

Johnson, in his message of December 4, began an extraordinary 
series of state papers which he could never have written all by him- 

"Johnson's state papers, including vetoes, were uniformly in good 
temper, conservative, historical and well considered. In the preparation 
of them he made use of every person on whom he could lay his hands. 
Bancroft wrote the first message to Congress; Jerre Black, the hero 
of Ex Parte Milligan, wrote the Reconstruction veto; Seward, the 
precise scholar, supervised much that the President wrote; Stanton, 
the practical lawyer, wrote the bill to admit North Carolina and 
other states into the Union in 1865; the Attorney-General, Welles, Sec- 
retary of the Navy, and other members of the cabinet he frequently 
used." 31 

In his first message, he forecast the adoption of the Thirteenth 
Amendment, which, in fact, occurred December 18th. He explained 
that because of this anticipated abolition of slavery, he had proceeded 
to begin reorganization of the states and admission to their full rights 
in the Union. He knew that this policy was attended with some risk 
but the risk must be taken: 

"The relations of the General Government towards the four millions 
of inhabitants whom the war has called into freedom has engaged my 
most serious consideration. On the propriety of attempting to make 
the freedmen electors by the proclamation of the Executive, I took 
for my counsel the Constitution itself, the interpretation of that in- 
strument by its authors and their contemporaries, and recent legisla- 
tion by Congress. When, at the first movement towards independence, 
the Congress of the United States instructed the several States to insti- 
tute governments of their own, they left each State to decide for 
itself the conditions for the enjoyment of the elective franchise. . . . 
Moreover, a concession" of the elective franchise to the freedmen, by 


act of the President of the United States, must have been extended 
to all colored men, wherever found, and so must have established a 
change of suffrage in the Northern, Middle, and Western States, not 
less than in the Southern and Southwestern. Such an act would have 
created a new class of voters, and would have been an assumption of 
power by the President which nothing in the Constitution or laws of 
the United States would have warranted. 

"On the other hand, every danger of conflict is avoided when the 
settlement of the question is referred to the several States. They can, 
each for itself, decide on the measure, and whether it is to be adopted 
at once and absolutely, or introduced gradually and with conditions. 
.In my judgment, the freedmen, if they show patience and manly vir- 
tues, will sooner obtain a participation in the elective franchise through 
the States than through the General Government, even if it had power 
to intervene. When the tumult of emotions that have been raised 
by the suddenness of the social change shall have subsided, it may 
prove that they will receive the kindliest usage from some of those on 
whom they have heretofore most closely depended. 

"But while I have no doubt that now, after the close of the war, 
it is not competent for the General Government to extend the elective 
franchise in the several States, it is equally clear that good faith re- 
quires the security of the freedmen in their liberty and in their prop- 
erty, their right to labor, and their right to claim the just return of their 
labor. I cannot too strongly urge a dispassionate treatment of this sub- 
ject, which should be carefully kept aloof from all party strife. We 
must equally avoid hasty assumptions of any natural impossibility for 
the two races to live side by side, in a state of mutual benefit and good 
will. The experiment involves us in no inconsistency; let us, then, go 
on and make that experiment in good faith, and not be too easily 
disheartened. The country is in need of labor, and the freedmen are 
in need of work, culture, and protection." 

And then came a characteristic turn of thought: "While their right 
of voluntary migration and expatriation is not to be questioned, I 
would not advise their forced removal and colonization." 

Here President Johnson was clearly envisaging the extinction or vol- 
untary removal of four million laborers in the South, and the settle- 
ment of the problem of their presence in the United States by replac- 
ing them with white labor. On the other hand, he seemed anxious to 
have them protected in their present new status and it was understood, 
both from the message and from other sources, that the President was 
in favor of continuing the Freedmen's Bureau. 

The temper of Congress was firm. What should be done in Re- 
construction was a matter for deliberation, thought and care. It could 


not be settled by the Southern leaders who brought on the crisis, 
working alone in conjunction with the President and his cabinet. On 
the other hand, what the nation wanted was by no means clear. 
There was among its millions no one mind. There was among its 
various groups no unanimity. 

The mind of Thaddeus Stevens evolved a course of action. This 
plan was to set up at least temporarily a cabinet form of responsible 
government in the United States : to put in power a camarilla of repre- 
sentatives of the various sections, groups and parties, who, by delibera- 
tion and inquiry, would find out what action could command a ma- 
jority in the House and in the Senate. This in itself was the beginning 
of a momentous change in our government, a change unfortunately, 
never carried completely through; and the failure to carry it through 
has hampered the United States government ever since. 

The original idea of the Congress was a small, deliberative assembly 
in two Houses which should think and argue matters through, and 
then have their decisions enforced by the Executive, and coordinated 
and clarified by a Supreme Court. But Congress grew to unwieldy 
size; the Executive grew in prestige and power, until during the Civil 
War, he became a dictator, while the Supreme Court was destined 
to assume powers which would at times threaten to stop the progress 
of the nation, almost without appeal. 

Moreover, the contingency of an Executive, who far from being 
the servant of a congressional majority was antagonistic and even a 
contradictory source of authority and action, never occurred to the 
fathers. They did not intend to have the President a mere mouth- 
piece of Congress, and, for this reason, they gave him the message 
and the veto; but on the other hand, they never conceived that he 
should be in himself both executive and lawgiver and yet this he 
practically was during and after the Civil War; he exemplified at the 
time of Andrew Johnson a new and extraordinary situation in which 
the President of the United States in vital particulars was opposed 
to the overwhelming majority of the party in Congress which had 
elected him, and refused in effect to do their will. 

This had to be remedied, and for this, the Committee of Fifteen, 
on the motion of Thaddeus Stevens, came into being in the 39th 
Congress. It was government on the English parliamentary model 
with two modifications: it was responsible to two Houses instead of to 
one, which enormously delayed and complicated its functioning; and 
it contained representatives of the opposition party — although this 
representation was often nullified through caucuses and sub-committees. 

It was the business of the Committee of Fifteen to see how the gov- 
ernment of the United States was to be changed after the war, from its 


form before the war; and this involved, first, some change in the basis 
of popular representation; secondly, a clarification of the status of 
the Negro; and finally it brought a modification of the relation of the 
national government to state government, not simply in civil rights 
but even more in industry and labor. It was through the first and 
second that the majority, which eventually dominated the 39th Con- 
gress, gained its moral power. It was through the third that the moral 
power was implemented. 

Stevens was too astute a politician to stress first the moral founda- 
tion of his argument. In his first speech, as leader of the 39th Congress, 
he placed his main argument on representation, because he knew that 
that would appeal to the men sitting in front of him, and represent- 
ing national wealth and industry. 

In December, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted, 
a curious result followed: twenty-nine Representatives were added to 
the South. Since the adoption of the Constitution, the basis of con- 
gressional representation had been the free population, including free 
Negroes and three-fifths of the slaves. Stevens said that with this basis 
of representation unchanged, "The eighty-three Southern members, 
with the Democrats, that will in the best times be elected from the 
North, will always give them a majority in Congress and in the 
Electoral College. They will at the very first election take possession of 
the White House and the halls of Congress. I need not depict the ruin 
that would follow. Assumption of the rebel debt or repudiation of the 
Federal debt would be sure to follow. The oppression of the freedmen; 
the reamendment of their State constitutions, and the reestablishment 
of slavery would be the inevitable result. That they would scorn and 
disregard their present constitutions, forced upon them in the midst of 
martial law, would be both natural and just. No one who has any re- 
gard for freedom of elections can look upon those governments, forced 
upon them in duress, with any favor." 

This was the cogent, clear argument of Thaddeus Stevens, the poli- 
tician. But Thaddeus Stevens was never a mere politician. He cared 
nothing for constitutional subtleties nor even for political power. He 
was a stern believer in democracy, both in politics and in industry, 
and he made his second argument turn on the economic freedom 
of the slave. 

"We have turned, or are about to turn, loose four million slaves 
without a hut to shelter them or a cent in their pockets. The infernal 
laws of slavery have prevented them from acquiring an education, 
understanding the commonest laws of contract, or of managing the 
ordinary business life. This Congress is bound to provide for them 
until they can take care of themselves. If we do not furnish them with 


homesteads, and hedge them around with protective laws; if we leave 
them to the legislation of their late masters, we had better have left 
them in bondage." 

He then resolutely went further in a defense of pure democracy, al- 
though he knew that in this argument he was venturing far beyond the 
practical beliefs of his auditors: 

"Governor Perry of South Carolina and other provisional gov- 
ernors and orators proclaim that 'this is the white man's govern- 
ment.' . . . Demagogues of all parties, even some high in authority, 
gravely shout, 'this is the white man's government.' What is implied 
by this ? That one race of men are to have the exclusive rights forever 
to rule this nation, and to exercise all acts of sovereignty, while all 
other races and nations and colors are to be their subjects, and have 
no voice in making the laws and choosing the rulers by whom they 
are to be governed. . . . 

"Our fathers repudiated the whole doctrine of the legal superiority 
of families or races, and proclaimed the equality of men before the 
law. Upon that they created a revolution and built the Republic. They 
were prevented by slavery from perfecting the superstructure whose 
foundation they had thus broadly laid. For the sake of the Union they 
consented to wait, but never relinquished the idea of its final comple- 

"The time to which they looked forward with anxiety has come. 
It is our duty to complete their work. If this Republic is not now 
made to stand on their great principles, it has no honest foundation, 
and the Father of all men will still shake it to its center. If we have 
not yet been sufficiently scourged for our national sin to teach us to 
do justice to all God's creatures, without distinction of race or color, 
we must expect the still more heavy vengeance of an offended 
Father. . . . 

"This is not a white man's Government, in the exclusive sense in 
which it is used. To say so is political blasphemy, for it violates the 
fundamental principles of our gospel of liberty. This is Man's Gov- 
ernment, the Government of all men alike; not that all men will have 
equal power and sway within it. Accidental circumstances, natural 
and acquired endowment and ability, will vary their fortunes. But 
equal rights to all the privileges of the Government is innate in every 
immortal being, no matter what the shape or color of the tabernacle 
which it inhabits. . . . 

"Sir, this doctrine of a white man's Government is as atrocious as 
the infamous sentiment that damned the late Chief Justice to ever- 
lasting fame; and, I fear, to everlasting fire." 32 

The ensuing debate in the House and Senate flamed over all crea- 


tion, but it started with a note of moral triumph. The newly elected 
Speaker declared: "The fires of civil war have broken every fetter 
in the land and proved the funeral pyre of slavery." The chaplain of 
the Senate increased this moral afflatus with religious fervor, thankful 
that "the statue of Freedom now looks down from our capital upon 
an entire nation of free men, and that we are permitted by the dis- 
pensation of Thy Providence, and the way being prepared, to give 
liberty to the captive, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, 
and to proclaim the acceptable year of our God." 

The chaplain of the House said: "O God, we stand today on the 
soil of a nation which is, not alone by inference or report, but by the 
solemn announcement of the constituted authorities, declared free in 
every part and parcel of its territory. Blessed be Thy name, O God, 
for Thy wonderful ending of this terrible conflict!" 

Congressional amendments of every sort poured into Congress con- 
cerning the national and Confederate debt, the civil rights of freedmen, 
the establishment of republican government, the basis of representa- 
tion, payment for slaves and the future powers of Federal government 
and the states. Argument swirled in a maelstrom of logic. No matter 
where it started, and how far afield in legal metaphysics it strayed, 
always it returned and had to return to two focal points: Shall the 
South be rewarded for unsuccessful secession by increased political 
power; and: Can the freed Negro be a part of American democracy? 

Thither all argument again and again returned; but it tried desper- 
ately to crowd out these real points by appealing to higher constitu- 
tional metaphysics. This constitutional argument was astonishing. 
Around and around it went in dizzy, silly dialectics. Here were grown, 
sensible men arguing about a written form of government adopted 
ninety years before, when men did not believe that slavery could out- 
live their generation in this country, or that civil war could possibly 
be its result; when no man foresaw the Industrial Revolution or the 
rise of the Cotton Kingdom; and yet now, with incantation and 
abracadabra, the leaders of a nation tried to peer back into the magic 
crystal, and out of a bit of paper called the Constitution, find eternal 
and immutable law laid down for their guidance forever and ever, 

They knew perfecdy well that no such omniscient law existed or 
ever had existed. Yet, in order to conceal the fact, they twisted and 
distorted and argued: these states are dead; but states can never die. 
These states have gone out of the Union; but states can never go out 
of the Union, and to prevent this we fought and won a war; but 
while we were fighting, these states were certainly not in the Union, 
else why did we fight? And how now may they come back? They 


are already back because they were never really out. Then what were 
we fighting for? For union. But we had union and we have got 
union, only these constituent states are dead and we must bring them 
to life. But states never die. Then they have forfeited statehood and 
become territories. But statehood cannot be forfeited; conspirators 
within the states interfered, and now the interference has stopped. 
But as long as the interference lasted, there was surely no union. Oh, 
yes, only it did not function; we need not now provide for its func- 
tioning again, for the Constitution already provides for that. 

Where was the Constitution during the war? But the war is ended; 
and now the Constitution prevails; unless the Constitution prevails, 
this is no nation, there is no President; we have no real Congress, 
since it does not represent the nation. But who represented the nation 
during the war ? And by that token, who saved the nation and killed 
slavery? Shall the nation that saved the nation now surrender its 
power to rebels who fought to preserve slavery? There are no rebels! 
The South is loyal and slavery is dead. How can the loyalty of the 
South be guaranteed, and has the black slave been made really free? 
Freedom is a matter of state right. So was secession. Must we fight 
that battle over again ? Yes, if you try to make monkeys equal to men. 
What caused the war but your own insistence that men were at once 
monkeys and real estate? Gentlemen, gentlemen, and fellow Amer- 
icans, let us have peace! But what is peace? Is it slavery of all poor 
men, and increased political power for the slaveholders ? Do you want 
to wreak vengeance on the conquered and the unfortunate? Do you 
want to reward rebellion by increased power to rebels? 

And so on, around and around, and up and down, day after day, 
week after week, with only here and there a keen, straight mind to 
cut the cobwebs and to say in effect with Seward through Johnson: 
Damn the Nigger; let us settle down to work and trade! Or to declare 
with Stevens and Sumner: Make the slaves free with land, education 
and the ballot, and then let the South return to its place. Or to say 
with Blaine and Conkling and Bingham, not in words but in action: 
Guard property and industry; when their position is impregnable, let 
the South return; we will then hold it with black votes, until we cap- 
ture it with white capital. 

After all this blather, the nation and its Congress found itself back 
to the two plain problems: The basis of representation in Congress 
and the status of the Negro. When it came to the Negro, the old dog- 
matism leaped to the fore and would not down. Chandler of New 
York regarded Farnsworth's demand for Negro equality as not only 
an attack on foreigners but "an insult to white citizens." When the 
Constitution said "people," it meant "white people." And he stood 


for "the purity of the white race." Fink declared that Ohio would 
never let Negroes vote with his consent. This is "and of right ought to 
be a white man's government," said Boyer of Pennsylvania, and he 
declared that eighteen of the twenty-five states now represented in 
Congress would not let the Negro vote. 

Yet the argument for freedom and democracy loomed high and 
clear. "Slavery, but a short time ago received as a God-given condition 
of men, has fallen under the banner of a purer morality, and come 
down with the curses of a Christian world. With the fall of slavery 
must also fall the things pertaining thereto. The master who yester- 
day had his heel upon the neck of his slave, today meets that slave 
upon the level of common equality. . . . The Negro should be care- 
fully considered in this question of Reconstruction, for after all we 
are our brother's keeper and we must see that even-handed justice 
is meted out to the black man if possible." 

Woodbridge of Vermont declared: "New social and political rela- 
tions have been established. Four million people have been born in a 
day. The shackles have been stricken from four million chattels, and 
they have become in an hour living, thinking, moving, responsible 
beings, and citizens of these United States. And if Congress does not 
do something to provide for these people, if they do not prove equal 
to their duty, and come up to their work like men, the condition of 
the people will be worse than before." 

The South represented by the Border States had to confine itself to 
constitutional metaphysics, or else blurt out, as some of its spokesmen 
did, a new defense of the old slavery/The West, on the other hand, 
had a real and disturbing argument and it was voiced by Voorhees 
in his dramatic attempt to drive a wedge between Johnson and the 
Republicans. He said, January 6, 1866: 

"How long can the inequalities of our present revenue system be 
borne? How long will the poor and laborious pay tribute to the rich 
and the idle? We have two great interests in this country, one of 
which has prostrated the other. The past four years of suffering and 
war has been the opportune harvest of the manufacturer. The looms 
and machine shops of New England and the iron furnaces of Penn- 
sylvania have been more prolific of wealth to their owners than the 
most dazzling gold mines of the earth. . . . 

"They are the results of class legislation, of a monopoly of trade 
established by law. It may be said that they indicate prosperity. Most 
certainly they do; but it is the prosperity of one who obtains the 
property of his neighbor without any equivalent in return. The present 
law of tariff is being rapidly understood. It is no longer a deception, 
but rather a well-defined and clearly-recognized outrage. The agricul- 


tural labor of the land is driven to the counters o£ the most gigantic 
monopoly ever before sanctioned by law. From its exorbitant demands 
there is no escape. The European manufacturer is forbidden our ports 
of trade for fear he might sell his goods at cheaper rates and thus re- 
lieve the burden of the consumer. We have declared by law that there 
is but one market in which our citizens shall go to make their pur- 
chases, and we have left it to the owners of the markets to fix their 
own prices." 33 

This was another unanswerable argument. But, having made it, 
what was Voorhees' remedy? His logical remedy would have been to 
unite the industrial democracy of the West with the abolition-democ- 
racy of the East in order to fight oligarchy in Northern industry and 
the attempt to reestablish agricultural oligarchy in the South. Yet this 
was farthest from his intention. His immediate effort was to embarrass 
and split the Republicans by forcing them to endorse or repudiate 
their own President and leader; his ultimate program, if he had one, 
was to seek with Andrew Johnson to restore oligarchy in the South 
with a dominant planter class and serfdom for the emancipated 
Negroes. This was unthinkable, and it deprived the radical West of 
all moral sympathy and voting power which its economic revolt de- 

What was it the nation wanted? Charles Sumner told the nation 
what it ought to want, but there was no doubt but that it did not 
yet want this. Thaddeus Stevens knew what the nation ought to want, 
but as a practical politician his business was to see how much of this 
he could get enacted into actual law. 

There came before the 39th Congress some 140 different proposals 
to change the Constitution of the United States, including 45 on appor- 
tionment, 31 on civil and political rights, and 13 forbidding payment 
for slaves. Over half of these affected the status of the freedmen. 
Before the Committee of Fifteen could sift these and settle to its 
larger task of fixing the future basis of representation and the degree 
of national guardianship which Negro freedmen called for, there 
seemed to be two measures upon which public opinion in the North 
was so far crystallized that legislation might safely be attempted. These 
were: a permanent Freedmen's Bureau, and a bill to protect the civil 
rights of Negroes. On the first day of business of the 39th Congress, 
there were introduced into the Senate two bills on these subjects. 

The Civil Rights Bill was taken up December 13, but Sherman 
of Ohio reminded the Senate that there was scarcely a state in the 
Union that did not make distinctions on account of color, and wished, 
therefore, to postpone action until the Thirteenth Amendment had been 
adopted. Saulsbury of Maryland called it "an insane effort to elevate 


the African race to the dignity of the white race," and claimed that 
the Thirteenth Amendment would carry no such power as Sherman 

Trumbull of Illinois, on the contrary, declared that the second sec- 
tion of the Thirteenth Amendment as reported by his committee 
was drawn "for the very purpose of conferring upon Congress author- 
ity to see that the first section was carried out in good faith, and for 
none other; and I hold that under that second section Congress will 
have the authority, when the constitutional amendment is adopted, 
not only to pass the bill of the Senator from Massachusetts, but a bill 
that will be much more efficient to protect the freedman in his rights. 
We may, if deemed advisable, continue the Freedmen's Bureau, clothe 
it with additional powers, and if necessary back it up with a military 
force, to see that the rights of the men made free by the first clause of 
the constitutional amendment are protected. And, sir, when the con- 
stitutional amendment shall have been adopted, if the information 
from the South be that the men whose liberties are secured by it are 
deprived of the privilege to go and come when they please, to buy 
and sell when they please, to make contracts and enforce contracts, I 
give notice that, if no one else does, I shall introduce a bill and urge 
its passage through Congress that will secure to those men every one 
of these rights : they would not be freemen without them." 34 

Congress asked the President for the specific facts concerning the 
situation in the South. The President replied with the report of Gen- 
eral Grant, containing the superficial results of a hasty, five-day trip, 
and disingenuously tried to suppress the report of Carl Schurz, un- 
doubtedly the most thorough-going and careful inquiry into the situa- 
tion just after the war that had been made. Sumner expressed his in- 
dignation and the evident need of a civil rights bill. 

"When I think of what occurred yesterday in this Chamber; when 
I call to mind the attempt to whitewash the unhappy condition of the 
rebel States, and to throw the mantle of official oblivion over sicken- 
ing and heart-rending outrages, where Human Rights are sacrificed 
and rebel Barbarism receives a new letter of license, I feel that I ought 
to speak of nothing else. I stood here years ago, in the days of Kansas, 
when a small community was surrendered to the machinations of slave- 
masters. I now stand here again, when, alas! an immense region, with 
millions of people, has been surrendered to the machinations of slave- 
masters. Sir, it is the duty of Congress to stress this fatal fury. Con- 
gress must dare to be brave; it must dare to be just." 35 

He claimed that the Civil Rights Bill aimed "simply to carry out 
and maintain the Proclamation of Emancipation, by which this repub- 
lic is solemnly pledged to maintain the emancipated slave in his free- 


dom. Such is our pledge : 'and the Executive Government of the United 
States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recog- 
nize and maintain the freedom of such persons.' This pledge is with- 
out any limitation in space or time. It is as extended and as immortal 
as the Republic itself. Does anybody call it vain words? I trust not. 
To that pledge we are solemnly bound. Wherever our flag floats as 
long as time endures we must see that it is sacredly observed. 

"But the performance of that pledge cannot be entrusted to another; 
least of all, can it be entrusted to the old slave-masters, embittered 
against their slaves. It must be performed by the National Govern- 
ment. The power that gave freedom must see that this freedom is 
maintained. This is according to reason. It is also according to the 
examples of history. In the British West Indies we find this teaching. 
Three of England's greatest orators and statesmen, Burke, Canning, 
and Brougham, at successive periods, united in declaring, from the 
experience in the British West Indies, that whatever the slave-masters 
undertook to do for their slaves was always 'arrant trifling,' and that, 
whatever might be its plausible form, it always wanted 'the executive 
principle.' More recently the Emperor of Russia, when ordering Eman- 
cipation, declared that all efforts of his predecessors in this direction 
had failed because they had been left to 'the spontaneous initiative of 
the proprietors.' I might say much more on this head but this is 
enough. I assume that no such blunder will be made on our part; that 
we shall not leave to the old proprietors the maintenance of that free- 
dom to which we are pledged, and thus break our own promises and 
sacrifice a race." 

But Congress was not yet ready for this high ground and Sumner's 
scheme was widely criticized. Whitelaw Reid, in a letter to the Cin- 
cinnati Gazette, March 3, 1868, recalled the profound surprise and bit- 
terness of feeling with which Sumner's remarks were received by Sen- 
ators. Republican journals and leaders within the inner circles of the 
party were hostile. 36 

The Republicans were, especially, afraid of any split with the Presi- 
dent lest this bring the Democrats into power; Forney of the Phila- 
delphia Press begged Sumner to yield for the sake of harmony within 
the great political army in which he had been "a conscientious and 
courageous leader." 

Protests against President Johnson's policy were therefore slow in 
expression. The nation was weary of war and objected to military 
administration in the South. Capitalists wanted pacification of the 
Southern territory to open a market closed for four years. They wanted 
any method which would bring the quickest results. Moreover, Re- 
publicans held some of the largest states of the North by narrow ma- 


jorities. Any unpopular step might put the Democrats in power. Office- 
holders did not want to break with Johnson and candidates for office 
were timid. 

Congress made in effect the first overture to the South and instead 
of forcing civil and possibly political rights, turned to take up the bill 
which proposed government guardianship and tutelage for the blacks. 
The Civil Rights Bill was postponed and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, 
which Johnson's message seemed to accept, was substituted. This was 
introduced as an amendment to the act of March 3, 1865, and con- 
tained the following propositions: (1) That the bureau should con- 
tinue in force until abolished by law; (2) That it should embrace the 
whole country wherever there were freedmen and refugees; (3) That 
bureau officials should have annual salaries of $500 to $1,200; (4) That 
the President should set apart for the use of freedmen and loyal 
refugees unoccupied lands in the South, to be allotted in parcels not 
exceeding forty acres each; (5) That the titles granted in pursuance 
of General Sherman's orders of January 16, 1865, be made valid; (6) 
That the commissioner procure land and erect suitable buildings as 
asylums and schools for dependent freedmen and refugees; (7) That 
it be the duty of the President to extend military protection and juris- 
diction over all cases where any of the civil rights or immunities be- 
longing to white persons, including the rights to make and enforce 
contracts, to give evidence, to inherit, buy, sell and hold property, etc., 
are refused or denied by local law, prejudice on account of race, color 
or previous condition of servitude; or where different punishments or 
penalties are inflicted than are prescribed for white persons com- 
mitting like offenses; (8) That it be made a misdemeanor, punishable 
by a fine of f 1,000 or imprisonment for one year or both, for anyone 
depriving another of the above rights on account of race, color or 
previous condition of servitude. These last sections were to apply to 
those states or districts where ordinary judicial proceedings had been 
interfered with by war. 37 

The bill was opposed as establishing a permanent bureau instead of 
a war-time emergency institution. Its great power was criticized and 
it was declared that its expense would be enormous. There were spe- 
cial objections to the validation of land titles under Sherman's orders 
and to the section on civil rights. It was defended as being not neces- 
sarily permanent; as in accordance with our Indian policy; and as 
not being expensive, since it was manned by army officers. It passed 
the Senate in January, 1866, by a vote of 37-10. 

In the House, Thaddeus Stevens tried to strengthen the bill by the 
most thorough-going provisions for government guardianship yet 
proposed. These provisions directed that food, clothes, medical atten- 


tion and transportation be furnished white refugees and black freed- 
men and their families; that public land be set aside in Florida, Missis- 
sippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas, and also from forfeited 
estates, to the extent of three million acres of good land; and that 
this should be parceled out to loyal white refugees and black freed- 
men at a rental not to exceed ten cents an acre; and that at the end 
of a certain period this land be sold to the applicants at a price not 
to exceed two dollars an acre. The occupants of land, under Sherman's 
order, were confirmed in their possession, unless the former owner 
proved his title, and in that case, other land at the rate of forty acres 
a farm should be given to the applicant. The bureau was to erect build- 
ings for asylums and schools, and provide a common school education 
for all white refugees and freedmen who applied. This thorough- 
going substitute unhappily was lost. 

The bill which finally passed the House, February 6, extended the 
power of the Freedmen's Bureau to freedmen throughout the whole 
United States and provided for food and clothing for the destitute, a 
distribution of public lands among freedmen and white refugees in 
parcels not exceeding forty acres each at a nominal rent and with an 
eventual chance of purchasing. The land assigned by Sherman was 
to be held for three years and then, if restored, other lands secured 
by rent or purchase. School buildings and asylums were to be erected 
when Congress appropriated the money. Full civil rights were to be 
enforced, and punishment was provided for those thwarting the civil 
rights of Negroes. 

This bill encountered strong opposition, especially from the Border 
States. Saulsbury of Delaware deliberately reiterated his contention 
that Congress had no right to abolish slavery, even if three-fourths 
of the states assented! With minor changes the bill was accepted by 
the Senate, February 9, and thus the first great measure of Recon- 
struction went to the President. Southern slavery had now been defi- 
nitely abolished by constitutional amendment, and government guard- 
ianship of the Negro with land and court protection was assured by a 
permanent Freedmen's Bureau. 

What was the answer of the South to this? Where were Southern 
brains and leadership? Why did so many hide, like Toombs? Why 
did the South have to trust its guidance to a half-educated, poor white 
President and a New York corporation lawyer? Suppose a Southern 
leader had appeared at that time and had said frankly: "We propose 
to make the Negro actually free in his right to work, his legal status, 
and his personal safety. We are going to allow him to get, on easy 
terms, homesteads, so as gradually to replace the plantation system 
with peasant proprietors; and we are going to provide him and our 


poor whites with elementary schools. And when in time, he is able 
to read and write and accumulate a minimum of property, then, and 
not until then, he can cast a vote and be represented in Congress." 

What was there so wild and revolutionary, so unthinkable, about a 
manly declaration of this sort? But a native of Alabama knew that 
this attitude was entirely lacking: "I do not think that Congress should 
wait for the people of the South to make regulations by which, at 
some future time, the Negroes will be provided with homes, have 
their rights as freemen acknowledged, be given a participation in civil 
rights, and be made a part of the framework of the country. They 
will not do that; you need not wait for it. If Congress can constitu- 
tionally commence a system of educating and elevating the Negroes, 
let them do it, and not wait for the people of the South to do it." 38 

It is nonsense to say that the South knew nothing about the capa- 
bilities of the Negro race. Southerners knew Negroes far better than 
Northerners. There was not a single Negro slave owner who did not 
know dozens of Negroes just as capable of learning and efficiency as 
the mass of poor white people around and about, and some quite 
as capable as the average slaveholder. They had continually in the 
course of the history of slavery recognized such men. Here and there 
teachers and preachers to white folks as well as colored folks had arisen. 
Artisans and even artists had been recognized. Some of these colored 
folks were blood relatives of the white slaveholders: brothers and 
sisters, sons and daughters. They had sometimes been given land, 
transported to the North or to Europe, freed and encouraged. 

Of course, the Southerners believed such persons to be exceptional, 
but all that was asked of them at this time was to recognize the possi- 
bility of exceptions. To such a reasonable offer the nation could and 
would have responded. It could have paid for the Negro's land and 
education. It could have contributed to relief and restoration of the 
South. Instead of that came a determination to reestablish slavery, 
murder, arson and flogging; a dogmatic opposition to Negro educa- 
tion and decent legal status; determination to have political power 
based on voteless Negroes, and no vote to any Negro under any cir- 

This showed the utter absence of common sense in the leadership 
of the South. Their attitude was expressed best, however, not by a 
Southerner but by William H. Seward, and it came in the shape of a 
veto to the Freedmen's Bureau Bill. If this veto had applied to a civil 
rights bill or to a bill providing for Negro suffrage, it would have 
been much more logical; but to veto a bill for the guardianship of 
Negroes, even though that bill carried and had to carry a defense 
of civil rights, was reactionary to the last degree. The veto was a 


shrewd document, as was every argument written by that master of 
subtle logic. The President was made to say: 

"I share with Congress the strongest desire to secure to the freed- 
men the full enjoyment of their freedom and property and their entire 
independence and equality in making contracts for their labor." But 
he objected to the bill because it was "unconstitutional"; because the 
bureau was permanent; because it did for the colored people what 
had never been done for white people; because it confiscated land, 
and because its cost would be prodigious. It was unconstitutional, be- 
cause it extended jurisdiction all over the United States, and gave 
the Bureau judicial power in that jurisdiction. It was made permanent 
in spite of the fact that slavery had been abolished. Conceive a Presi- 
dent, born a poor white laborer, saying: 

"Congress has never felt itself authorized to spend public money for 
renting homes for white people honestly toiling day and night, and 
it was never intended that freedmen should be fed, clothed, educated 
and sheltered by the United States. The idea upon which slaves were 
assisted to freedom was that they become a self-sustaining population." 

The bureau, he said, would be costly. During war times, we had 
already spent $5,876,272 for the relief of Negroes, and $2,047,297 for 
the relief of whites. For 1866, the present bureau needed $11,745,000. 
Now we are planning to spend money for land and education which 
will double this sum. The bill proposes to take away land from former 
owners without due process of law. Finally, comes this extraordinary 
economic philosophy for serfs: 

"Undoubtedly, the freedman should be protected, but he should be 
protected by the civil authorities, especially by the exercise of all con- 
stitutional powers of the courts of the United States and of the states." 
His condition* is not so bad. His labor is in demand, and he can change 
his dwelling place if one community or state does not please him. The 
laws that regulate supply and demand will regulate his wages. The 
freedmen can protect themselves, and being free, they could be self- 
sustaining, capable of selecting their own employment, insisting on 
proper wages, and establishing and maintaining their own asylums 
and schools. 

"It is earnestly hoped that, instead of wasting away, they will, by 
their own efforts, establish for themselves a condition of responsibility 
and" prosperity. It is certain that they can attain that condition only 
through their own merits and exertions." 

This was the answer of Andrew Johnson and William H. Seward 
to the Freedmen's Bureau Bill. Practically, it said that the Negroes do 
not need protection. They are free. Let them go to work, earn wages, 
and support their own schools. Their civil rights and political rights 


must depend entirely upon their former masters, and the United 
States has no constitutional authority to interfere to help them. As 
Stevens said later, the President himself favored confiscation of South- 
ern land for the poor when he was "clothed and in his right mind." 39 

It was an astonishing pronouncement. It was the American Assump- 
tion, of the possibility of labor's achieving wealth, applied with a venge- 
ance to landless slaves under caste conditions. The very strength of its 
logic was the weakness of its common sense. 

Yet, Andrew Johnson was the President of the United States. He 
was the leader of the Republican party which had just won the war. 
He declared in the face of an astounding array of testimony to the 
contrary, that the South was peaceful and loyal, and the slaves really 
free. Congress did not believe the President or agree with him, but 
some were not yet prepared to break with him. Six Republicans de- 
serted their party and voted to uphold the veto. The result was that 
by a vote of 30-18, the attempt to over-ride the President's veto failed. 
The rift made in the Republican party was wide. On the one side 
stood abolition-democracy in curious alliance with triumphant North- 
ern industry, both united in self-defense against Johnson and the South. 
This Northern unity, Johnson and Seward intended to disrupt, and 
did so in part when the veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill was 
sustained. Seward followed this by an appeal for the quick resump- 
tion of peace and industry, and Johnson made an appeal to labor un- 
rest and Western radicals. But here again, there was no natural union 
and this Seward knew. His defense, therefore, of Johnson's plan was 
intended to soothe both industry and abolition without stressing radi- 

Washington's Birthday had been fixed upon by the President's 
friends for a grand demonstration. The New York Aldermen endorsed 
the President's "conservative, liberal, enlightened, and Christian pol- 
icy," with "one hundred guns salute on February 21 and one hundred 
on February 22." Johnson was declared "greater than 'Old Hickory.' " 
"He was on the highest pinnacle of the mount of fame"; "his feet 
were planted on the Constitution of his country"; "he was a modern 
edition of Andrew Jackson bound in calf." "Indeed, it was said by 
the Radicals in reply to the Democratic fireworks that 'more powder 
was burned in honor of the veto by the Copperheads than they con- 
sumed during the four years of war.' " 40 

Seward said at Cooper Union: 

"This, I think, is the difference between the President, who is a man 
of nerve, in the Executive chair at Washington, and the nervous men 
who are in the House of Representatives. Both have got the Union 
restored not with slavery, but without it; not with secession, flagrant 


or latent, but without it; not with compromise, but without it; not 
with disloyal states, or representatives, but with loyal states and repre- 
sentatives; not with Rebel debts, but without them; not with exemption 
from our own debts for suppressing the rebellion, but with equal 
liabilities upon the Rebels and the loyal men; not with freedmen and 
refugees abandoned to suffering and persecution, but with freedmen 
employed in productive, self-sustaining industry, with refugees under 
the protection of law and order. The man of nerve sees that it has 
come out right at last, and he accepts the situation. 

"He does not forget that in this troublesome world of ours, the most 
to be secured by anybody is to have things come out right. Nobody 
can ever expect to have them brought out altogether in his own way. 
The nervous men, on the other hand, hesitate, delay, debate and 
agonize — not because it has not come out right, but because they 
have not individually had their own way in bringing it to a happy 

As to the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, he said: "I have not given prom- 
inence in these remarks to the conflict of opinion between the Presi- 
dent and Congress in reference to the bureau for the Relief of Freed- 
men and Refugees. That conflict is, in its consequences, comparatively 
unimportant; it would excite little interest and produce little division 
if it stood alone. It is because it has become the occasion for revealing 
the difference that I have already described that it has attained the 
importance which seems to surround it." 

He proceeded to point out that the present Freedmen's Bureau Bill 
had not expired and might not expire for another year and that, there- 
fore, during the next year Congress might still prolong its existence. 
"Ought the President of the United States to be denounced in the 
house of his friends, for refusing in the absence of any necessity, to 
occupy or retain, and to exercise power greater than those which are 
exercised by any imperial magistrate in the world? Judge ye! I trust 
that this fault of declining imperial powers, too hastily tendered by a 
too confiding Congress, may be forgiven by a generous people." 41 

This was an adroit defense, but Johnson could not let well enough 
alone. He was deprived of his mentor and assuming his vivid role 
of stump speaker, possibly with a few stimulants, he felt called upon 
this same Washington's Birthday to reply to a committee which had 
waited upon him with resolutions. He was speaking after the Four- 
teenth Amendment in its first form had been reported to the House 
of Representatives and sent back to the Committee of Fifteen. With 
that as well as the vetoed Freedmen's Bureau Bill and the pending 
Civil Rights Bill in mind, he recited again his services to the Union 
during the war; he reminded his auditors that when rebellion mani- 


fested itself in the South, he stood by the government. He was for 
the Union with slavery; he was for the Union without slavery. In 
either alternative, he was for the government and the Constitution. 
Then he went on with the classic argument: 

"You have been struggling for four years to put down a rebellion. 
You contended at the beginning of that struggle that a state had not 
a right to go out. . . . And when you determine by the executive, 
by the military and by the public judgment, that these States cannot 
have any right to go out, this committee turns around and assumes 
that they are out, and that they shall not come in. ... I say that when 
the states that attempted to secede comply with the Constitution, and 
give sufficient evidence of loyalty, I shall extend to them the right 
hand of fellowship, and let peace and union be restored. I am opposed 
to the Davises, and Toombses, the Slidells, and the long list of such. 
But when I perceive, on the other hand, men . . . still opposed to the 
Union, I am free to say to you that I am still with the people. . . . 
Suppose I should name to you those whom I look upon as being 
opposed to the fundamental principles of this Government, and now 
laboring to destroy them. I say Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania; 
I say Charles Sumner of Massachusetts; I say Wendell Phillips of 

Finally, Johnson became melodramatic: "Are they not satisfied with 
one martyr? Does not the blood of Lincoln appease the vengeance 
and wrath of the opponents of this Government? Is their thirst still un- 
slaked? Do they want more blood? Have they not honor and courage 
enough to effect the removal of the Presidential obstacle otherwise than 
through the hands of the assassin? I am not afraid of assassins," etc., 

etc. 42 

Small wonder that the New York Tribune and the Philadelphia 
Press reported that Johnson was drunk when he made his speech; 
but the main cause of his drunkenness was not necessarily whiskey, 
it was constitutional inability to understand men and movements. 
This was not time to straddle on the slavery question; that question 
has been settled. The crucial question now was, what will the South 
do when it comes back to Congress; what will it do to Negroes, and 
even more important in the minds of many, what will it do to the 
new industry ? The latter question struck deepest, but the former voiced 
itself loudest. 

"The masses of the loyal people must be as agreed to arise against 
this veto of a measure, intended as a bulwark against slavery and trea- 
son, as they were on the night when the flag of the Union was first 
hauled down from Fort Sumter," said the Chicago 'Tribune** 

Congress immediately hit back with a concurrent resolution not 


to admit Southern Congressmen to either House until the status of 
the Southern states was settled. This had passed the House of Repre- 
sentatives after dilatory tactics February 20, but was not considered 
in the Senate until February 23, after Johnson's speech. It was passed 
after debate March 2, and thus Stevens' original resolution of Decem- 
ber 4 was finally confirmed. 

Here evidently there was small ground for compromise. Either 
Johnson must bow to the will of the majority of his party in Congress, 
or, led by him, the South would be in the saddle in 1866. Many who 
had criticized Sumner in December, now were on his side. 

The President and the South, on the other hand, were greatly en- 
couraged: despite the majority which the Republicans had in Congress, 
they could not override a Presidential veto; with the reaction that 
Johnson and the South expected at the next election, the Republicans 
would lose power and the South, united with Northern and Western 
Democracy, would rule. The Southerners resumed their drive to com- 
plete their black codes and their program of reducing the Negro to a 
servile caste. 

The President, drunk with his new feeling of power, showed his 
entire misapprehension of the nature of the forces working against 
him. Congress girded itself for battle, not mainly because the virtual 
reenslavement of the Negro aroused them, but because this was the 
symptom of a reassertion of power on the part of the South which 
might affect the debt, the tariff and the national banking system. 

The President and his supporters were going to insist upon the full 
political power of the South, unhampered by a Freedmen's Bureau or 
by Negro civil rights. Had it not been for the presence of the Negro, 
this attitude of the South could not have arisen. Never before in mod- 
ern history has a conquered people treated their conqueror with such 
consummate arrogance. The South hid behind the darkness of the 
colored men and thumbed their noses at the nation. 

For the Negro, Andrew Johnson did less than nothing, when once 
he realized that the chief beneficiary of labor and economic reform 
in the South would be freedmen. His inability to picture Negroes 
as men made him oppose efforts to give them land; oppose national 
efforts to educate them; and above all things, oppose their rights to 
vote. He even went so far as to change plans which he had thought 
out and announced before he faced the Negro problem. He once said 
that representation ought to be based on voters; but no sooner did he 
learn that Thaddeus Stevens advocated the same thing, than he became 
dumb on the subject, and had no advice to offer. He had advocated 
the confiscation of the land of the rich Southerners and penalties on 
wealth gained through slavery. When he realized that Negroes would 


be beneficiaries of any such action, he said not another word. He was 
a thick-and-thin advocate of universal suffrage in the hands of the 
laborer and common man, until he realized that some people actually 
thought that Negroes were men. He opposed monopoly on the New 
Jersey railroads, until Charles Sumner joined him. 

The Civil Rights Bill which was taken up next made Negroes 
citizens of the United States and punished any person who deprived 
them of civil rights under any state law: "They shall have the same 
right in every State and Territory in the United States to make and 
enforce contracts; to sue, be parties and give evidence; to inherit, 
purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property; 
and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the se- 
curity of person and property as is enjoyed by the white citizens, and 
shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none 
other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary 

It gave to the District Courts of the United States jurisdiction in 
crimes and ofifenses against the act, gave the power of arrest to United 
States marshals and District Attorneys, and provided fines and pen- 

David Bingham, of Ohio, brought up a difficulty. He reminded Con- 
gress that the first eight amendments to the Constitution could not 
be enforced by the Federal Government since they were held to 
be limitations upon the Federal power, and that, therefore, the power 
to punish offenses against life, liberty and property was one of the 
reserved powers of the state. He, therefore, suggested a constitutional 
amendment which would punish all violations of the bill of rights 
by state officers. He reminded the House that even when property 
had been taken by the states without due process of the law, there was 
no remedy in the Federal Courts, and that this had been affirmed 
in a recent case in Maryland. His proposal went to the Committee of 

The Civil Rights Bill passed the Senate, was amended in the House, 
and was agreed to by both Houses, March 14, 1866. The debate on 
the Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill made it clear 
that the emancipation of the slaves meant increased representation in 
Congress and in the Electoral College, whenever the Southern states 
were readmitted, and that this increase in power would take place 
whether the Negroes were enfranchised or not. 

Moreover, the Civil Rights Act might be repealed; the United States 
might be made to pay all or a part of the Confederate debt, and Con- 
gress might repudiate the debt. The debate, therefore, on the Civil 
Rights Bill made the necessity of a constitutional amendment clear. 


On March 27, President Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill with curi- 
ous logic. He feared that under this bill Chinese, Indians and Gypsies, 
as well as Negroes, might be made citizens. He declared that a citizen 
of the United States would not necessarily be a citizen of a state. He 
again questioned whether it was good policy to act on citizenship of 
Negroes, since eleven of the thirty-six states were unrepresented. 

"Four million of them have just emerged from slavery into freedom. 
Can it be reasonably supposed that they possess the requisite qualifi- 
cations to entitle them to all the privileges and equalities of citizens 
of the United States?" 

One wonders what Andrew Johnson expected the Negroes to be. 
They were not to be citizens; they were not to be voters; and yet he 
repeatedly assured them that they were free. He went on with another 
strange argument, declaring that the bill discriminated "against large 
numbers of intelligent, worthy and patriotic foreigners, and in favor 
of the Negro, to whom, after long years of bondage, the avenues of 
freedom and opportunity have just now been suddenly opened." Thus, 
he thought Negroes less familiar with the character of American in- 
stitutions than foreigners. And yet foreigners must wait "five years" 
for naturalization and be "of good moral character." 

He said that if Congress could give the equal civil rights enumerated 
to Negroes, it could also give them the right to vote and the right to 
hold office. He objected to state officers being liable to arrest for dis- 
criminating against Negroes. He objected to the interference of Con- 
gress with the judiciary, and assuming jurisdiction of subjects which 
had always been treated by state courts. 

Again, he returned to his astonishing economics: 

"The white race and the black race of the South have hitherto lived 
together under the relation of master and slave — capital owning labor. 
Now, suddenly, that relation is changed, and, as to ownership, capital 
and labor are divorced. They stand now each master of itself. In this 
new relation, one being necessary to the other, there will be a new 
adjustment, which both are deeply interested in making harmonious. 
Each has equal power in settling the terms, and, if left to the laws 
that regulate capital and labor, it is confidently believed that they will 
satisfactorily work out the problem. Capital, it is true, has more intelli- 
gence, but labor is never so ignorant as not to understand its own 
interests, not to know its own value, and not to see that capital must 
pay that value. 

"This bill frustrates this adjustment. It intervenes between capital 
and labor, and attempts to settle questions of political economy through 
the agency of numerous officials, whose interest it will be to foment 
discord between the two races; for as the breach widens their em- 


ployment will continue, and when it is closed their occupation will 

He declared that this law establishes "for the security of the colored 
race safeguards which go infinitely beyond any that the General Gov- 
ernment have ever provided for the white race," and, therefore, dis- 
criminates against the white race. 

He declared the bill a step toward concentrating all legislative power 
in the national government. "A perfect equality of the white and 
colored races is attempted to be fixed by Federal law in every State 
of the Union, over the vast field of state jurisdiction covered by the 
enumerated rights. In no one of these can any State ever exercise 
any power of discrimination between the different races." 

He then fetched up his heavy artillery of ".Social Equality" to stam- 
pede the prejudiced. 

"In the exercise of State policy over matters exclusively affecting the 
people of each State, it has frequently been thought expedient to 
discriminate between the two races. By the statutes of some of the 
States, Northern as well as Southern, it is enacted, for instance, that 
white persons shall not intermarry with a. Negro or a mulatto." While 
he did not believe that this particular bill would annul state laws in 
regard to marriage, nevertheless, if Congress had the power to provide 
that there should be no discrimination in the matters enumerated 
in the bill, then it could pass a law repealing the laws of the states in 
regard to marriage! 

He continued: "Hitherto, every subject embraced in the enumeration 
of rights contained in this bill has been considered as exclusively be- 
longing to the States. They all relate to the internal police and econ- 
omy of the respective States. ... If it be granted that Congress can 
repeal all State laws discriminating between whites and blacks in the 
subjects covered by this bill, why, it may be asked, may not Congress 
repeal, in the same way, all state laws discriminating between the two 
races, on the subject of suffrage and office?" 

Speaking of the general effect of the bill, he declared it interfered 
"with the municipal legislation of the states, with the relations exist- 
ing exclusively between a State and its citizens, or between inhabitants 
of the same State — an absorption and assumption of power by the 
General Government which, if acquiesced in, must sap and destroy 
our federative system of limited powers, and break down the barriers 
which preserve the rights of the States. It is another step, or rather 
stride, toward centralization, and the concentration of all legislative 
powers in the national government." 

The President's veto of the Civil Rights Bill offended the nation. 
Senator Stewart declared that the President had promised not to veto 


this bill and for that reason the Senator had voted to sustain the 
veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill. Senator Trumbull had publicly 
announced that the President would not veto the Civil Rights Bill. 
Henry Ward Beecher had urged him to sign it. 

Even in the President's cabinet, none of the members, except Seward 
and Wells, agreed with Johnson. Sumner wrote: "Nobody can yet 
see the end. Congress will not yield. The President is angry and brutal. 
Seward is the marplot. In the cabinet, on the question of the last veto, 
there were four against it to three for it; so even there, among his 
immediate advisers, the President is left in a minority. Stanton re- 
viewed at length the bill, section by section, in the Cabinet, and pro- 
nounced it an excellent and safe bill every way from beginning to end. 
But the veto message was already prepared, and an hour later was sent 
to Congress." 44 

The time for the final test between Johnson and Congress had come. 
There ensued some sharp political maneuvering. Morgan, Wiley and 
Stewart were won over to the majority and Stockton, a Johnson man 
from New Jersey, was unseated on a technicality. Thus on April 6 and 
9 Congress overrode the veto. The Civil Rights Bill became law, and 
Johnson faced a Congress able to work its will. 

There was one other matter, besides amending the Constitution, 
on which Congress might take significant action. According to the 
current American creed, full protection of a citizen could only be ac- 
complished by possession of the right to vote. This was not wholly 
true, even in the North, and with the ballot in the hands of white 
men. Nevertheless, it still retained a great element of truth, for only 
with universal suffrage could the mass of workers begin that economic 
revolution which would eventually emancipate them. They would 
have to use their ballot at first in conjunction with the petty bourgeois; 
that is, in conjunction with the small property holder, who was being 
hard-pressed by the new concentrated capital of industry; in conjunc- 
tion with the small Western farmer, who was pushed to the wall by 
the railway and land monopoly. But armed with the ballot, this pre- 
liminary fight against the power of capital would clear the way for 
the final fight which would make democracy real among the workers. 

While the Committee of Fifteen was groping its way to action, 
there was a chance for Congress to express its real feeling on the ballot. 
There might be a question in the minds of constitutional hair-splitters 
as to how far Congress could coerce states in defining the right of 
suffrage. But Congress ruled directly the District of Columbia. Con- 
gress had the right to decide as to the political franchise in territories. 
Would it not be the first step toward a logical and consistent end for 
Congress to establish Negro suffrage in the District, and in all terri- 


tories which were set up ? Thus, among the first bills introduced in the 
39th Congress were bills to give the Negro the right to vote in the 
District of Columbia, and this demand was supported by petitions 
and speeches, and especially well-written petitions from the educated 
Negroes of the District. 

In January, 1866, there came a notable petition from the colored 
people signed by John F. Cook, a wealthy octoroon of a free Negro 
family, and twenty-five other citizens. It did not come from freedmen 
or laborers, but from property holders of Negro descent, many of 
whom had been born free. Kelley of Pennsylvania read it in part to the 

"We are intelligent enough to be industrious, to have accumulated 
property, to build and sustain churches and institutions of learning. 
We are and have been educating our children without the aid of any 
school fund, and until recently had for many years been furnishing, 
unjustly as we deem, a portion of the means for the education of the 
white children of the District. 

"We are intelligent enough to be amenable to the same laws and 
punishable alike with others for the infraction of said laws. We sus- 
tain as fair a character on the records of crime and statistics of pauper- 
ism as any other class in the community, while unequal laws are con- 
tinually barring our way in the effort to reach and possess ourselves 
of the blessings attendant upon a life of industry and self-denial and 
of virtuous citizenship. 

"Experience likewise teaches that that debasement is most humane 
which is most complete. The possession of only a partial liberty makes 
us more keenly sensible of the injustice of withholding those other 
rights which belong to a perfect manhood. Without the right of suf- 
frage, we are without protection, and liable to combinations of out- 
rage. Petty officers of the law, respecting the source of power, will 
naturally defer to the one having a vote, and the partiality thus shown 
will work much to the disadvantage of the colored citizens." 45 

However, there were some special reasons for avoiding this ticklish 
subject. After all, Washington was the capital of the nation. It had 
long been a center of Southern society. To give the Negroes political 
freedom and partial control there, was a long step and a decisive one. 

The people of the District hastily organized a counter-stroke, and 
presented to the Senate a communication from the Mayor in which 
he asserted that a special vote had been taken December 21, "to ascer- 
tain the opinion of the people of Washington on the question of 
Negro suffrage." He meant, of course, the white people, and the 
vote was overwhelming: 6,591 against Negro suffrage and 35 for it. 
The communication proceeded, in a fine climax of Southern rhetoric. 


to say that "This unparalleled unanimity of sentiment which per- 
vades all classes of this community in opposition to the extension of 
the right of suffrage to that class, engenders an earnest hope that 
Congress, in according to this expression of their wishes the respect 
and consideration they would as individual members yield to those 
whom they immediately represent, would abstain from the exercise 
of its absolute power, and so avert an impending future apparently 
so objectionable to those over whom, by the fundamental law of the 
land, they have exclusive jurisdiction." 

A long argument ensued, which showed that Congress was not 
ready to declare itself on Negro suffrage; further action was postponed 
for another year, and a bill for Negro suffrage in the District of 
Columbia did not pass Congress until December, 1866; it became a 
law in January, 1867. 

Meantime, the Committee of Fifteen had met first December 26, 
1865. Charles Sumner was considered too radical on the Negro ques- 
tion to be a member of it, and so the committee was headed by a 
Conservative, Fessenden of Maine, who wished to stand by President 
Johnson, and was strongly, sometimes even bitterly, opposed to the 
radicalism of Sumner. Stevens, the great protagonist of curbing the 
political power of the South and completely emancipating the Negro, 
was the prime figure in the committee. Then, there were Bingham of 
Ohio, the more or less conscious defender of property; Conkling of 
New York, the sophisticated, exquisite corporation lawyer; and Bout- 
well of Massachusetts. There were three Democrats, of whom the most 
distinguished was Johnson of Maryland, the strongest Border State 
representative in Congress, handicapped by a legal mind; and the 
narrow-minded Rogers of New Jersey. 

A sub-committee of the Committee of Fifteen courteously waited 
on President Johnson, and he consented to do nothing more toward 
Reconstruction for the present, in order to secure harmony of action. 
On December 26, at the first meeting of the Committee, Stevens 
brought forward his proposal to base representation on voters. And 
singularly enough, later in this same month, Johnson in an interview 
with Senator Dixon of Connecticut said that if, however, amendments 
are to be made to the Constitution, changing the basis of representa- 
tion and taxation (and he did not deem them at all necessary to the 
present time), he knew of none better than a simple proposition, em- 
braced in a few lines, making in each state the number of qualified 
voters the basis of representation, and the value of property the basis 
of direct taxation. Such a proposition could be embraced in the fol- 
lowing terms: 

" 'Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states 


which may be included within this Union according to the number 
of qualified voters in each state.' . . . 

"Such amendment, the President also suggested, would remove 
from Congress all issues in reference to the political equality of the 
races. It would leave the States to determine absolutely the qualifica- 
tions of their own voters with regard to color; and thus the number 
of Representatives to which they would be entitled in Congress would 
depend upon the number upon whom they conferred the right of 

"The President, in this connection, expressed the opinion that the 
agitation of the Negro franchise question in the District of Columbia 
at this time was a mere entering-wedge to the agitation of the ques- 
tion throughout the States, and was ill-timed, uncalled-for, and cal- 
culated to do great harm. He believed that it would engender enmity, 
contention and strife between the two races, and lead to a war between 
them, which would result in great injury to both, and the certain 
extermination of the Negro population. Precedence, he thought, should 
be given to more important and urgent matters, legislation upon which 
was essential to the restoration of the Union, the peace of the coun- 
try, and the prosperity of the people." 46 

Here, surely, was logic and understanding in plain sight. But not 
only did the President eventually drop this proposal, but even in com- 
mittee, opposition appeared. Boutwell suggested at the third meeting 
of the Committee, January 9, that he preferred to retain population 
as the basis of apportionment, with the provision that no state should 
make "any distinctions in the exercise of the elective franchise on ac- 
count of race or color." Boutwell was from Massachusetts, and New 
England, through Blaine, had protested vigorously against the Stevens 
proposition in the House the day before, January 8. It was a curious 
situation, which Blaine explained in part; and in part, he did not. 

New England had lost a good proportion of its male population 
by migration to the West, and it did not allow women to vote. New 
England, moreover, had a large immigrant population which she was 
using in her mills, and on which a part of her representation in Con- 
gress was based. She proposed to make this population still larger. 
She proposed, also, to reduce the voting power of this laboring popu- 
lation, not only by confining the vote to the native-born and nat- 
uralized, but also by a literacy qualification. Through Blaine, there- 
fore, spoke the exploiting manufacturer, and voiced an idea as dif- 
ferent from Sumner's as one could well imagine. To base population 
on voters was, in the eyes of industry, to keep down the representation 
of the South, to be sure; but also to transfer the balance of political 
power from the East to the West, and in the West industry was not 


so sure of its dictatorship. Consequently, the Committee of Fifteen 
was compelled to take steps in another direction. 

On January 12, Bingham introduced a proposal to the committee 
for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing civil rights. It said : "The 
Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper 
to secure to all persons in every state within this Union, equal protec- 
tion in their rights of life, liberty and property." 47 This proposition, 
destined to become part of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, 
had been introduced early in December in the House of Representa- 

The Committee of Fifteen referred the Bingham proposal to a sub- 
committee, consisting wholly of Republicans. At the same time, the 
committee insisted that the basis of representation provided for in the 
Constitution should be changed. Johnson of Maryland adhered to the 
Stevens proposal of making voters the basis. New England and New 
York objected, and this matter was left to the consideration of the 
same sub-committee. Meantime, three other propositions were sub- 
mitted : 

1. Representation should be based on population, but if colored peo- 
ple were disfranchised, they should not be counted in the apportion- 
ment. (Morill.) 

2. Representatives should be apportioned according to population, 
except that Negroes, Indians, Chinese and other colored persons, if they 
were not allowed to vote, should not be counted in the apportionment. 

3. Representatives were to be apportioned among the states accord- 
ing to the whole number of citizens of the United States; provided 
that whenever in any State, civil or political rights or privileges should 
be denied or abridged, on account of race or color, all persons of such 
race or color should be excluded from the basis of representation or 
taxation. (Conkling.) 

On January 16, a proposed Fourteenth Amendment was considered 
in two parts; the first part had alternative propositions: 

A. Apportioning representation according to the number of citizens 
and making "inoperative and void" any laws "whereby any distinc- 
tion is made in political or civil rights or privileges on account of race, 
creed or color." 

B. The alternative proposition was the Conkling proposal. 

The second part of the amendment was Bingham's proposal that: 
"Congress shall have power to make all laws necessary and proper 

to secure to all citizens of the United States the same equal protection 

in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property." 
These propositions went to sub-committees and were reported back 


January 20. The Civil Rights section of Bingham appeared in the 
strongest and most specific form which it ever took: "Congress shall 
have power to make all laws necessary and proper to secure to all citi- 
zens of the United States, in every State, the same political rights and 
privileges; and to all persons in every State equal protection in the en- 
joyment of life, liberty and property." 

It was voted 10-4 to consider this proposition of Bingham's separately; 
and by a vote of 11 -3, the second resolution on apportionment was 
chosen as a proposed Fourteenth Amendment. This excluded from 
representation Negroes who were denied the right to vote. Stevens 
wished to amend this by declaring who were citizens. Conkling, how- 
ever, moved to strike out the phrase "citizens of the United States," 
and insert "persons in every state, excluding Indians not taxed." 
This was a move to insure the counting of the foreign-born as a part 
of the basis of apportionment, and was in accordance with the New 
England idea. Stevens, Fessenden and Bingham were against it, but it 
passed 11-3^ 

On January 22, this section on apportionment was reported to Con- 
gress as a Fourteenth Amendment, and was the first effort of the Com- 
mittee of Fifteen to prepare for Reconstruction by constitutional 
amendment. This was before the Freedmen's Bureau Bill or the Civil 
Rights Bill had passed Congress, and the bill for suffrage in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, while it had passed the House, had not been con- 
sidered in the Senate, and was not destined to be for several months. 
This fact is a sufficient answer to the accusation that the Committee 
of Fifteen purposely delayed action on the problems of Reconstruction. 
Within less than a month after it began work, it laid its first proposi- 
tion before Congress. 

Stevens reported this first form of the Fourteenth Amendment to the 
House and asked rather peremptorily that it pass before sundown. His 
reason was that there were numbers of state legislatures in session and 
that they could consider it immediately. But he was disappointed. 
There was too much opposition in his own group. Conkling elabo- 
rated and made specific the argument which Stevens had first brought 
forward : 

The four million people who had suddenly been released from slav- 
ery, while falling within the category of "free persons," were not yet 
political persons. "This emancipated multitude has no political status. 
Emancipation vitalizes only natural rights, not political rights. En- 
franchisement alone carries with it political rights, and these emanci- 
pated millions are no more enfranchised now than when they were 
slaves. They never had political power. Their masters had a fraction 
of power as masters." But since the relationship of master and slave 


was destroyed, this fraction of power could no longer survive in the 
masters. There was only one place where it could logically go, and that 
was to the Negroes; but since it was said that "they are unfit to have 
it ... it is a power astray, without a rightful owner. It should be re- 
sumed by the whole nation at once. ... If a black man counts at all 
now, he counts as five-fifths of a man, not as three-fifths. . . . Four 
millions, therefore, and not three-fifths of four millions, are to be 
reckoned in here now," and in eleven states most of these four mil- 
lions were presumed to be "unfit for political existence." Since the 
framers of the Constitution did not foresee such contingency, and ex- 
pected that emancipation would come gradually and be accompanied 
by education and enfranchisement, they provided for no situation 
whereby eleven states might claim twenty-eight (or twenty-nine) repre- 
sentatives besides their just proportion. 

"Twenty-eight votes to be cast here and in the Electoral College for 
those held not fit to sit as jurors, not fit to testify in the court, not fit 
to be plaintiff in a suit, not fit to approach the ballot box. Twenty-eight 
votes, to be more or less controlled by those who once betrayed the 
Government, and for those so destitute, we are assured, of intelligent 
instinct as not to be fit for free agency. 

"Shall this be? Shall four million beings count four million, in 
managing the affairs of the nation, who are pronounced by their fel- 
low beings unfit to participate in administering government in the 
states where they live . . . who are pronounced unworthy of the least 
and most paltry part in the political affairs? Shall one hundred and 
twenty-seven thousand white people in New York cast but one vote in 
this House and have but one voice here, while the same number of 
white people in Mississippi have three votes and three voices? Shall 
the death of slavery add two fifths to the entire power which slavery 
had when slavery was living? Shall one white man have as much 
share in the Government as three other white men merely because he 
lives where blacks out-number whites two to one? Shall this inequal- 
ity exist, and exist only in favor of those . . . who did the foulest and 
guiltiest act which crimsons the annals of recorded time? No, sir; not 
if I can help it. 

"This proposition," he continued, "rests upon a principle already im- 
bedded in the Constitution, and as old as free government itself," a 
principle "that representation does not belong to those who have no 
political existence, but to those who have. The object of the amend- 
ment is to enforce this truth. . . . Every State will be left free to ex- 
tend or withhold the elective franchise on such terms as it pleases, and 
this without losing anything in representation if the terms are impar- 
tial as to all. . . ." If, however, there is found "a race so vile or worth- 


less that to belong to it is alone cause of exclusion from political ac- 
tion, the race is not to be counted here in the Congress." 48 

Thus spoke New York in cold contrast to Thaddeus Stevens but 
with quite as merciless logic. This argument made it clear that the 
basis of representation must be changed in some way, unless the South 
was coming back with increased political power. What change should 
be made? The West wanted Stevens' original proposition which had 
early been introduced in Congress by Stevens himself and also sep- 
arately by two Ohio representatives, and which based representation 
on voters; but this proposition would have increased the power of the 
Middle and Western states at the expense of New England, and New 
England had had her warning from Voorhees. While, then, a major- 
ity of Republicans undoubtedly favored this, the proposition could 
not pass Congress without the support of New England, and the West 

Eliot of Massachusetts submitted an amendment, which was prac- 
tically the Fifteenth Amendment, but it was agreed that this could 
not pass Congress. And so, finally, the report was sent back to the 
Committee of Fifteen. 

Meantime, on January 22, the Bingham Amendment on Civil Rights 
was considered in the Committee of Fifteen and referred to a sub- 
committee, after Boutwell had tried to make its wording milder, by 
saying that "Congress shall have power to abolish any distinction in 
the exercise of the elective franchise." 

On January 27, this section was reported from the sub-committee 
with modifications, and appeared now in the following words: "Con- 
gress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and 
proper to secure to all persons in every state full protection in the en- 
joyment of life, liberty and property; and to all citizens of the United 
States the same immunities and also equal political rights and privi- 

It was postponed; Bingham explained in 1871 that, after postpone- 
ment, he had introduced this section of the amendment in the Com- 
mittee of Fifteen in the words in which it now stands in the Consti- 
tution. He had changed the form in the hope that the amendment 
might be so framed that "in all the hereafter it might be accepted by 
the historian of the American Constitution like Magna Charta as the 
keystone of American legislation." The decision of Marshall vs. the 
City Council of Baltimore, a celebrated case, had induced him to take 
counsel with Marshall. Thus, curiously enough, constitutional restraints 
designated to protect persons were changed into a form which even- 
tually made the Federal Government the protector of property against 
state enactments: 


"The Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be 
necessary and proper to secure to the citizens of every state all privi- 
leges and immunities of citizens in the several states." 49 

This substitute, which Bingham reported to the committee February 
3, was adopted in the Committee of Fifteen and on February 10, by 
a vote of 9-5, it was referred to Congress. It came up before the House 
of Representatives, February 13, as a proposed constitutional amend- 
ment and was debated at length February 27-28, when the House 
refused to table it, but postponed it until April. 

When the Committee of Fifteen received the amendment on appor- 
tionment back from the House, it made the minor change of taking 
out the reference to direct taxes, which was irrelevant and of little 
importance. So that, again, January 31, the proposition came back to 
the House of Representatives. 

Stevens was unequivocal: 

"I do not want them [the Southern states] to have representation — 
I say it plainly — I do not want them to have the right of suffrage be- 
fore this Congress has done the great work of regenerating the Con- 
stitution and laws of this country according to the principles of the 
Declaration of Independence." 50 Again, Schenck of Ohio tried to 
base representation on voters, but this was defeated. Stevens said that 
he favored it, but that it could not pass Congress. The House passed 
this form of the Fourteenth Amendment, January 3, 1866, and sent it 
to the Senate. 

In the meantime, the whole aspect of the political situation changed. 
The Freedmen's Bureau Bill had passed Congress, and, to the aston- 
ishment of the country, had been vetoed. The Civil Rights Bill had 
passed the Senate, and Johnson had made his speech of February 22, 
definitely aligning himself now with the South and their Northern 
Democratic allies, and against his own party. Black Codes had been 
passed in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and 

On the other hand, Northern business was afraid. 

"Viewed as a practical matter," asked the Nation, "what would be 
the effect upon Government securities of the immediate admission to 
Congress of 58 Southern Representatives and 22 Senators, nearly all of 
whom could be counted on as determined repudiationists ? ... It 
would hardly be a safe thing for the national credit to have such a 
body of men in Congress, reenforced as they would probably be, by a 
considerable number of Northern men ready to go for at least qualified 
repudiation." 51 

Seward, himself, it is said, was greatly disappointed and embarrassed 
by the Black Codes of the South. He found that the South was get- 


ting stronger in Johnson's confidence. Nemesis again dogged Seward's 
steps, as when before he was defeated for the Presidential nomination 
by the anti-slavery men to whom he had given a slogan. It was then 
that Toombs had sneered: "Actaeon had been devoured by his dogs." 
The dogs were at it again. Blaine says that, "When Congress reassem- 
bled after the holidays, there was a great change in its attitude. Many 
feared that the President and the Democrats together would win. 

"The leading commercial men, who had become weary of war, con- 
templated with positive dread the reopening of a controversy which 
might prove as disturbing to the business of the country as the strug- 
gle of arms had been, and without the quickening impulses to trade 
which active war always imparts. The bankers of the great cities, 
whose capital and whose deposits all rested upon the credit of the 
country and were invested in its paper, believed that the speedy settle- 
ment of all dissension, and the harmonious cooperation of all depart- 
ments of the government, were needed to maintain the financial honor 
of the nation and to reinstate confidence among the people. Against ob- 
stacles so menacing, against resistance so ominous, against an array of 
power so imposing, it seemed to be an act of boundless temerity to 
challenge the President to a contest, to array public opinion against 
him, to denounce him, to deride him, to defy him." 52 

The Committee of Fifteen paused to get its bearings. In the first 
place, what was the attitude of the country toward Negro suffrage? 
In 1865, Wisconsin had rejected a proposal to let Negroes vote. Min- 
nesota, the same year, had defeated a constitutional amendment giving 
Negroes the suffrage. Connecticut, also, in 1865 gave a majority of 
6,272 against Negro suffrage. Later, in 1867, Ohio defeated Negro 
suffrage by 50,629. In Michigan, 1868, a new Constitution, omitting 
the word "white," was defeated by a majority of 38,849. In the Ne- 
braska Constitution of 1866, only whites were allowed the suffrage. In 
New York and some other states, there was special legislation on the 
voting of Negroes, which was not changed. Evidently, the country was 
not ready for Negro suffrage. 

Moreover, the pinch of economic difficulties following the war, was 
beginning to be felt. The price of gold which was at 170 in 1864, rose 
to 284 in 1865. The income tax had been increased in 1865. The United 
States was paying out vast sums of interest on its annual debt. Cotton 
was high, selling at forty-three cents a pound in 1865; it dropped to 
thirty cents only in 1866, with a crop of 1,900,000 bales, as compared 
with that marvelous crop that precipitated the Civil War, 5,740,000 
bales in 1861. The price of agricultural products had increased, but not 
nearly as much as the prices of manufactured goods, and the farmers 
were feeling the difference. Gambling and speculation were wide-spread. 


The United States Treasury was trying to reduce the circulation of 
the depreciated greenbacks, and under the Act of 1866, retired some 
$75,000,000; but early in 1868, the contraction of the currency was pro- 
hibited and the West began to cry for inflation. A Western editor wrote 
Senator Trumbull of Illinois: "You all in Washington must remember 
that the excitement of the great contest is dying out, and that com- 
mercial and industrial enterprises and pursuits are engaging a large 
part of public attention. The times are hard; money is close; taxes are 
heavy; all forms of industry here in the West are heavily burdened; 
and in the struggle to pay debts and live, people are more mindful of 
themselves than of any of the fine philanthropic schemes that look to 
making Sambo a voter, juror and office holder." 53 

Johnson knew nothing of finance, and left the Treasury entirely to 
McCulloch, who was struggling, October 31, 1865, with a national debt 
that stood at $2,800,000,000. There was still doubt of the legal tender 
constitutionality of the greenbacks. Taxation was enormous and ap- 
plied to almost every available subject. There faced the country a tre- 
mendous problem of reorganizing the debt, reestablishing the cur- 
rency and reducing the revenue. 

Stevens had rushed the Committee of Fifteen as fast as or faster than 
his majority wished. The first draft of the Fourteenth Amendment 
reached the Senate and was attacked by Charles Sumner. There was 
no greater proof of his courage, and his learning and keenness of mind 
were unquestioned. From the day of his great speech on Kansas to his 
unswerving advocacy of civil rights for Negroes and their political 
enfranchisement, he towered above his contemporaries. He was un- 
willing to compromise like Stevens, and for that reason was not made 
head of the great Committee of Fifteen. But there was no question 
about his integrity and his idealism. 

Sumner had no sympathy with an amendment which made the dis- 
franchisement of Negroes possible and regarded it as "another com- 
promise with human rights" and a discrimination on account of race 
and color which hitherto had been kept out of the Constitution. Thus 
the first proposition which Northern industry made, met the direct 
opposition of abolition-democracy. Charles Sumner, in a tremendous 
speech February 6, 1865, laid down the thesis that under no circum- 
stances should it be possible to disfranchise a man simply on account 
of race or color; that here for the first time we had a chance to realize 
the democracy which the fathers of the Republic foresaw, and he 
spoke prophetic words on future disfranchisement. 

"I am not insensible to the responsibility which I assume in setting 
myself against a proposition already adopted in the other House, and 
having the recommendation of a committee to which the country 


looks with such just expectations, and to which, let me say, I look with 
so much trust. But after careful reflection, I do not feel that I can do 
otherwise. . . . 

"There are among us, four millions of citizens now robbed of all 
share in the government of their country, while at the same time they 
are taxed according to their means, directly and indirectly, for the sup- 
port of the Government. Nobody can question this statement. And 
this bare-faced tyranny of taxation without representation it is now 
proposed to recognize as not inconsistent with fundamental right and 
the guarantee of a republican government. Instead of blasting it you 
go forward to embrace it as an element of political power. 

"If, by this, you expect to induce the recent slave-master to confer 
the right of suffrage without distinction of color, you will find the 
proposition a delusion and a snare. He will do no such thing. Even 
the bribe you offer will not tempt him. If, on the other hand, you ex- 
pect to accomplish a reduction of his political power, it is more than 
doubtful if you will succeed, while the means you employ are un- 
worthy of our country. 

"There are tricks and evasions possible, and the cunning slave-master 
will drive his coach and six through your amendment stuffed with all 
his representatives. Should he cheat you in this matter, it will only be 
a proper return for the endeavor on your part to circumvent him at 
the expense of fellow-citizens to whom you are bound by every obliga- 
tion of public faith." 54 

Seldom has a great political prophecy been so strikingly fulfilled! 

Stevens in the House had, by his diplomacy, ranged back of his 
policy the industrial leaders of the North who feared that a return of 
the South would mean attack upon the tariff, the national banks, the 
debt, and the whole new post-war economic structure. Sumner in the 
Senate, on the other hand, took little account of the political game. He 
set his strategy on the high ground of democracy, and democracy for 
all men, and it was his opposition that killed the first draft of the 
Fourteenth Amendment which permitted the disfranchisement of Ne- 
groes on penalty of reduced representation. Stevens with infinite pains 
had gotten this much through the Committee of Fifteen and the 
House of Representatives. Sumner spoke his convictions despite the 
desertion of friends and party. Senator Williams of Oregon expressed 
admiration, but could not follow him. "The echoes of his lofty and 
majestic periods will linger and repeat themselves among the corridors 
of history." 

There was wide discussion throughout the country. Garrison was 
converted, and to him Sumner's speech seemed unanswerable. To 
Whittier, it was irresistible; Phillips' voice was filled with enthusiasm, 


while Henry Ward Beecher said that the speech rose far above the 
occasion, "covering a ground which will abide after all contemporary 
questions of special legislation have passed away." 

The proposed amendment went down to defeat on March 9, re- 
ceiving only 25 votes against 22, instead of the necessary two-thirds 
majority. Sumner's wide influence, while it did not command the full 
sympathy of Republicans or Democrats, nevertheless, was enough to 
block compromise between Northern industry and the abolition- 
democracy. Fessenden was bitter and Stevens furious. No man de- 
manded more for Negroes than Stevens, or was more thoroughly an 
advocate of complete democracy. But, as he said, "The control of re- 
publics depends on the number, not the quality, of the voters. This is 
not a government of saints. It has a large sprinkling of sinners." 

As the head of the Committee of Fifteen, he was trying to get a 
proposition for which a two-thirds majority of Congress would vote, 
and start the country as far on the road towards democracy and aboli- 
tion of caste as was possible under the circumstances. He complained 
that his proposition had "been slaughtered by a puerile and pedantic 

Andrew Johnson was deeply incensed by Sumner's speech and 
sneered at it next day. "I am free to say to you that I do not like to be 
arraigned by someone who can get up handsomely-rounded periods 
and deal in rhetoric, and talk about abstract ideas of liberty, who never 
periled life, liberty, or property. This kind of theoretical, hollow, un- 
practical friendship amounts to but very little." 

He was receiving a group of Negroes who were trying by direct 
appeal either to get his sympathy or to probe his animus against the 
race. The Freedmen's Bureau Bill had passed, but Johnson had not yet 
indicated what action he would take. The Civil Rights Bill and the first 
draft of the Fourteenth Amendment were before the Senate. Perhaps 
the delegation hoped to influence him. 

Douglass had seen Johnson on inauguration day in 1865 when 
President Lincoln had pointed Douglass out to him. "The first ex- 
pression which came to his face, and which I think was the true index 
of his heart, was one of bitter contempt and aversion. Seeing that I 
observed him, he tried to assume a more friendly appearance, but it 
was too late." 55 

In the interview with President Johnson, February 7, 1866, there 
were present George T. Downing of Rhode Island, William E. 
Mathews of New York, John Jones of Philadelphia, John F. Cook of 
Washington, Joseph E. Otis, A. W. Ross, William Whipper, John M. 
Brown, Alexander Dunlap, Frederick Douglass and his son Lewis. 

"What was said on the occasion brought the whole question virtu- 


ally before the American people. Until that interview the country was 
not fully aware of the intentions and policy of President Johnson on 
the subject of reconstruction, especially in respect to the newly emanci- 
pated class of the South. After having heard the brief addresses made 
by him to Mr. Downing and myself, he occupied at least three quarters 
of an hour in what seemed a set speech, and refused to listen to any 
reply on our part, although solicited to grant a few moments for that 
purpose." 56 

The President shook hands with the colored men and then George 
T. Downing, a leading Negro from Newport, Rhode Island, opened 
the discussion. He said to the President: "We desire for you to know 
that we come feeling that we are friends meeting a friend." He said 
that they represented colored people from the "States of Illinois, Wis- 
consin, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, 
Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, the New England states, 
and the District of Columbia." They were not satisfied with an amend- 
ment prohibiting slavery but wanted it enforced by appropriate legis- 

"We are Americans, native-born Americans; we are citizens. . . . 
We see no recognition of color or race in the organic law of the land. 
... It has been shown in the present war that the government may 
justly reach its strong arm into the States and demand from those who 
owe it allegiance, their assistance and support. May it not reach out a 
like arm to secure and protect its subjects upon whom it has a claim?" 

Then Frederick Douglass came forward and said: "Your noble and 
humane predecessor placed in our hands the sword to assist in saving 
the nation, and we do hope that you, his able successor, will favorably 
regard the placing in our hands, the ballot with which to save our- 

The President was evidently embarrassed and floundered. He was 
not going to make a speech; he had jeopardized life, liberty and prop- 
erty, not only for the colored people, but for the great mass of people. 
He was a friend of the colored man, but "I do not want to adopt a 
policy that I believe will end in a contest between races, which if per- 
sisted in will result in the extermination of one or the other." 

He remembered his speech to Nashville Negroes before the election 
and repeated his willingness to be a "Moses to lead him from bondage 
to freedom," but not into a war of races. He said that one can talk 
about the ballot-box and justice and Declaration of Independence, but 
"suppose by some magic touch you can say to everyone, 'You shall vote 
tomorrow.' How much would that ameliorate their condition at this 

Then the President approached Douglass and said, "Now let us get 


closer up to this subject." He said he opposed slavery because it was 
a monopoly and gave profit and power to an aristocracy. By getting 
clear of the monopoly, they had abolished slavery. 

Douglass started to interrupt, but the President was not through. 
He went on to show the position of the poor white in relation to the 
slave owners, and how the slaves despised the poor whites. Douglass 
denied this personally, but the President insisted that anyway, most 
colored people did, and this made the poor white man opposed both 
to the slave and his master; and that, therefore, there was enmity be- 
tween the colored man and the poor white. Already the colored man 
had gained his freedom during the war, and if he and the poor white 
came into competition at the ballot-box, a "war of races" would result. 

Moreover, was it proper to put on a people, without their consent, 
Negro suffrage? "Do you deny that first great principle of the right of 
the people to govern themselves?" Here Downing interrupted. "Apply 
what you have said, Mr. President, to South Carolina, for instance, 
where a majority of the inhabitants are colored." The President twisted 
uncomfortably and said that the matter to which he referred "comes 
up when a government is undergoing a fundamental change" and he 
preferred to instance Ohio rather than South Carolina. Was it right to 
force Ohio to make a change in the elective franchise against its will? 

He could not touch the question as to whether it was right to pre- 
vent a majority in South Carolina from ruling because, to his mind, 
no number of Negroes could outweigh the will of whites. He stum- 
bled on without mentioning this suppressed minor premise and said, 
"It is a fundamental tenet of my creed that the will of the people must 
be obeyed. Is there anything wrong or unfair in that?" 

Douglass smiled, still thinking of South Carolina : "A great deal that 
is wrong, Mr. President, with all respect." But the President insisted: 
"It is the people of the states that must for themselves determine this 
thing. I do not want to be engaged in a work that will commence a 
war of races." Then he indicated that the interview was at an end; he 
was glad to have met them, and thanked them for the compliment 
paid him. 

Douglass returned the thanks, and said that they had not come to 
argue but if the President would grant permission, "We would en- 
deavor to controvert some of the positions you have assumed." Mr. 
Downing, too, suggested persuasively that the President, by his kind 
explanation, "must have contemplated some reply to the views which 
he has advanced." 

Douglass continued, "I would like to say one or two words in reply: 
You enfranchise your enemies and disfranchise your friends. . . . 
My own impression is that the very thing that your Excellency would 


avoid in the Southern states can only be avoided by the very measure 
that we proposed. ... I would like to say a word or so in regard to 
that matter of the enfranchisement of the blacks as a means of pre- 
venting the very thing which your Excellency seems to apprehend — 
that is a conflict of races." 

The President naturally did not want to give publicity to views of 
Negroes antagonistic to his own, and said shortly that there were other 
places besides the South for the Negro to live. "But," said Douglass, 
"the masters have the making of the laws and we cannot get away 
from the plantation." "What prevents you?" asked Johnson. Douglass 
replied that, "His master then decides for him where he shall go, where 
he shall work, how much he shall work. . . . He is absolutely in the 
hands of those men." 

The President replied, "If the master now controls him or his ac- 
tions, would he not control him in his vote?" Douglass answered: "Let 
the Negro once understand that he has an organic right to vote, and 
he will raise up a party in the Southern states among the poor, who 
will rally with him. There is this conflict that you speak of between 
the wealthy slave owner and the poor man." The President replied 
eagerly: "You touch right upon the point there. There is this conflict, 
and hence, I suggest emigration." 

The President then bowed his dark visitors out, saying they were all 
desirous of accomplishing the same ends but proposed to do so by fol- 
lowing different roads. Douglass, turning to leave, said: 

"The President sends us to the people and we go to the people." "Yes, 
sir," answered the President, "I have great faith in the people. I believe 
they will do what is right." 5T 

Afterwards the colored delegation published a reply to various points 
brought up by the President, and especially stressed the matter of en- 
mity between the Negroes and the poor whites: 

"The first point to which we feel especially bound to take exception 
is your attempt to found a policy opposed to our enfranchisement, 
upon the alleged ground of an existing hostility on the part of the 
former slaves towards the poor white people of the South. We admit 
the existence of this hostility, and hold that it is entirely reciprocal; but 
you obviously commit an error by drawing an argument from an in- 
cident of slavery, and making it a basis for a policy adapted to a state 
of freedom. The hostility between the white and blacks of the South 
is easily explained. It has its root and sap in the relation of slavery, and 
was incited on both sides by the cunning of the slave masters. Those 
masters secured their ascendency over both the poor whites and blacks 
by putting enmity between them. 

"They divided both to conquer each. There was no earthly reason 


why the blacks should not hate and dread the poor whites when in a 
state of slavery, for it was from this class that their masters received 
their slave catchers, slave-drivers and overseers. They were the men 
called in upon all occasions by the masters whenever any fiendish out- 
rage was to be committed upon the slave. Now, sir, you cannot but 
perceive, that the cause of this hatred removed, the effect must be re- 
moved also. Slavery is abolished. The cause of this antagonism is re- 
moved, and you must see that it is altogether illogical (and putting 
'new wine into old bottles') to legislate from slaveholding premises 
for a people whom you have repeatedly declared it your purpose to 
maintain in freedom. 

"Besides, even if it were true, as you allege, that the hostility of the 
blacks towards the poor whites must necessarily project itself into a 
state of freedom, and that this enmity between the two races is even 
more intense in a state of freedom than in a state of slavery, in the 
name of heaven, we reverently ask, how can you, in view of your pro- 
fessed desire to promote the welfare of the black man, deprive him of 
all means of defense and clothe him whom you regard as his enemy 
in the panoply of political power? Can it be that you recommend a 
policy which would arm the strong and cast down the defenseless? 
Can you, by any possibility of reasoning, regard this as just, fair, or 
wise ? Experience proves that those are most abused who can be abused 
with the greatest impunity. . . . 

"On the colonization theory you were pleased to broach, very much 
could be said. It is impossible to suppose, in view of the usefulness of 
the black man in times of peace as a laborer in the South, and in time 
of war as a soldier in the North, and the growing respect for his rights 
among the people and his increasing adaptation to a high state of civ- 
ilization in his native land, that there can ever come a time when he 
can be removed from this country without a terrible shock to its pros- 
perity and peace." 58 

The Committee of Fifteen began its work again. The indomitable 
Stevens never gave up, never despaired; if he could not get all he 
wanted, he stood fast and took what he could. He said sadly June 13, 
1866, in the House of Representatives, referring to the proposed Four- 
teenth Amendment with its permission to disfranchise the Negro: "In 
my youth, in my manhood, in my old age, I had fondly dreamed that 
when any fortunate chance should have broken up for a while the 
foundation of our institutions, and released us from obligations the 
most tyranical that ever man imposed in the name of freedom, that 
the intelligent, pure and just men of this Republic, true to their pro- 
fessions and their consciences, would have so remodeled all our insti- 
tutions as to have freed them from every vestige of human oppression, 


of inequality of rights, of the recognized degradation of the poor, and 
the superior caste of the rich. In short, that no distinction would be 
tolerated in this purified Republic but what arose from merit and con- 
duct. This bright dream has vanished 'like the baseless fabric of a vi- 
sion.' I find that we shall be obliged to be content with patching up 
the worst portions of the ancient edifice, and leaving it, in many of its 
parts, to be swept through by the tempests, frosts and the storms of 

"Do you inquire why, holding these views and possessing some will 
of my own, I accept so imperfect a proposition? I answer, because I 
live among men and not among angels; among men as intelligent, as 
determined and as independent as myself, who, not agreeing with me, 
do not choose to yield up their opinions to mine. Mutual concessions 
is our only resort, or mutual hostilities." 59 

The Committee of Fifteen now tried to find out by actual inquiry 
just what the situation in the South was with regard to the Negro. It 
did this, not so much because anyone was in doubt, as because the 
situation of the Negro was the most appealing thing that could be used 
to bring a majority to vote for the industrial North. It would increase 
the tremendous moral afflatus which made the war more and more 
symbolic in the minds of the people of the United States of a great 
triumph of human freedom. Sub-committees of the main committee 
took testimony for months all over the South and eventually issued an 
unanswerable array of evidence. 

April 20, Robert Dale Owen brought a proposal for a Fourteenth 
Amendment to Stevens in the Committee of Fifteen. "Stevens picked 
up my manuscript, looked it carefully over, and then, in his impulsive 
way, said: 'I'll be plain with you, Owen. We've had nothing before us 
that comes anywhere near being as good as this, or as complete. It 
would be likely to pass, too; that's the best of it. We haven't a 
majority, either in our committee or in Congress, for immediate suf- 
frage; and I don't believe the states have yet advanced so far that they 
would be willing to ratify it. I'll lay that amendment of yours before 
our committee tomorrow, if you say so; and I'll do my best to put it 
through.' " 60 

Previous to this time, the thought was to bring in several separate 
amendments, but now the attitude was to unite the whole matter in 
one comprehensive amendment, so that the proposition of April 21 
was presented as follows: 

"Section 1. No discrimination shall be made by any state, nor by the 
United States, as to the civil rights of persons because of race, color, or 
previous condition of servitude. 

"Section 2. From and after the fourth day of July, in the year one 


thousand eight hundred and seventy-six, no discrimination shall be 
made by any state, nor by the United States, as to the enjoyment of 
classes of persons of the right of suffrage, because of race, color, or pre- 
vious condition of servitude. 

"Section 3. Until the fourth day of July, one thousand eight hundred 
and seventy-six, no class of persons, as to the right of any of whom to 
suffrage discrimination shall be made by any state, because of race, 
color, or previous condition of servitude, shall be included in the basis 
of representation. 

"Section 4. Debts incurred in aid of insurrection or of war against 
the Union, and claims of compensation for loss of involuntary service 
or labor, shall not be paid by any state nor by the United States." 

Bingham moved a fifth section to the amendment, along the lines of 
his previous efforts: 

"Section 5. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall 
abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; 
nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property with- 
out due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction 
the equal protection of the laws." 

The Bingham proposal was first adopted and then struck out by the 
committee. It was voted 7 to 6 to report the first three sections to Con- 
gress. Bingham tried in vain to bring in his proposal as a separate 

Thus Owen's proposition was ordered sent to Congress and had a 
good chance of being adopted; but Fessenden, the chairman, was sick 
with varioloid and it was decided to delay final report until he was 
better. Stevens told Owens the sequel: 

"Our action on your amendment [said Stevens] had, it seems, got- 
ten noised abroad. In the course of last week the members from New 
York, from Illinois, and from your state too, Owen — from Indiana — 
held, each separately, a caucus to consider whether equality of suffrage, 
present or prospective, ought to form a part of the Republican program 
for the coming canvass. 

"They were afraid, so some of them told us, that if there was a 'nig- 
ger in the wood-pile' at all (that was the phrase), it would be used 
against them as an electioneering handle; and some of them — hang 
their cowardice! — might lose their elections. By inconsiderable majori- 
ties each of these caucuses decided that Negro suffrage in any shape, 
ought to be excluded from the platform; and they communicated these 
decisions to us. 

"Our committee hadn't backbone enough to maintain its ground. 
Yesterday, the vote on your plan was reconsidered, your amendment 
was laid on the table, and in the course of the next three hours we 


contrived to patch together — well, what you've read this morning." C1 

The sections were changed so as simply to exclude disfranchised Ne- 
groes from being made the basis of apportionment. Williams then pre- 
sented a new section which allowed the Negroes gradually to be en- 
franchised, and thus gradually to become a basis of representation. 

"Representatives shall be apportioned among several states which 
1 may be included within this Union according to their respective num- 
; bers, counting the whole number of persons in each State excluding 
Indians not taxed. But whenever in any State the elective franchise 
shall be denied to any portion of its male citizens, not less than twenty- 
one years of age, or in any way abridged, except for participation in 
rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation in such State shall 
i be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens 
shall bear to the whole number of male citizens not less than twenty- 
. one years of age." This was adopted as Section II of the final amend- 

Finally, on this same date, the Committee reinserted, by a vote of 
10-3, Bingham's proposition on civil rights as Section I. Afterward, 
Conkling, before the Supreme Court, explained this action. 

"At the time the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, individuals 
and joint stock companies were appealing for congressional and ad- 
ministrative protection against the invidious and discriminating state 
and local taxes. One instance was that of an express company, whose 
stock was owned largely by citizens of the State of New York, who 
i came with petitions and bills seeking acts of Congress to aid them in 
1 resisting what they deemed oppressive taxation in two states, and op- 
pressive and ruinous rules of damages applied under state laws. That 
complaints of oppression in respect of property and other rights, made 
by citizens of Northern states who took up residence in the South, 
; were rife, in and out of Congress." 

The Committee then considered Section III. Mr. Harris moved 
to insert the following: 

"Until the 4th day of July, in the year 1870, all persons who volun- 
tarily adhered to the late insurrection, giving it aid and comfort, shall 
be excluded from the right to vote for Representatives in Congress and 
for electors for President and Vice President of the United States." 62 

This was finally adopted by a vote of 8-7. The Committee then dis- 
cussed the readmission of the Southern states with the Fourteenth 
Amendment as a condition. Finally, the Joint Resolution and the bill 
concerning the readmission of the Southern states were adopted by a 
i vote of 12-3. This proposed amendment and bill were reported to the 
House April 30, debated May 8, 9, and 10, and passed May 10. Stevens 
defended it May 8 and May 10. 


"Our fathers had been compelled to postpone the principles of their 
great Declaration, and wait for their full establishment until a more 
propitious time. That time ought to be present now. But the public 
mind has been educated in error for a century. How difficult in a day 
to unlearn it. In rebuilding, it is necessary to clear away the rotten and 
defective portions of the old foundations, and to sink deep and found 
the unrepaired edifice upon the firm foundation of eternal justice. If, 
perchance, the accumulated quick-sands render it impossible to reach 
in every part so firm a basis, then it becomes our duty to drive deep 
and solid the substituted piles on which to build. It would not be wise 
to prevent the raising of the structure because some corner of it might 
be founded upon materials subject to the inevitable laws of mortal 
decay. It were better to shelter the household and trust to the advancing 
progress of a higher morality and a purer and more intelligent prin- 
ciple to underpin the defective corner. . . . 

"This proposition is not all that the committee desired. It falls far 
short of my wishes, but it fulfills my hopes. I believe it is all that can 
be obtained in the present state of public opinion. Not only Congress 
but several States are to be consulted. Upon a careful survey of the 
whole ground, we did not believe that nineteen of the loyal States could 
be induced to ratify any proposition more stringent than this. I say 
nineteen, for I utterly repudiate and scorn the idea that any State 
not acting in the Union is to be counted on the question of ratification. 
It is absurd to suppose that any more than three-fourths of the States 
that propose the Amendment are required to make it valid; that States 
not here are to be counted as present. Believing then that this is the 
best proposition that can be made effectual, I accept it. I shall not be 
driven by clamor or denunciation to throw away a great cause because 
it is not perfect. I will take all I can get in the cause of humanity and 
leave it to be perfected by better men in better times. It may be that 
that time will not come while I am here to enjoy the glorious triumph; 
but that it will come is as certain as that there is a just God. . . ." 

Stevens then referred to the previous draft of the amendment. 

"After having received the careful examination and approbation of 
the committee, and having received the united Republican vote of one 
hundred and twenty Representatives of the people, it was denounced 
as 'utterly reprehensible,' and 'unpardonable'; 'to be encountered as a 
public enemy'; 'positively endangering the peace of the country, and 
covering its name with dishonor.' 'A wickedness on a larger scale than 
the crime against Kansas or the fugitive slave law; gross, foul, out- 
rageous; an incredible injustice against the whole African race'; with 
every other vulgar epithet which polished cultivation could command. 
... I confess my mortification at its defeat. I grieved especially be- 


cause it almost closed the door of hope for the amelioration of the con- 
dition of the freedmen. But men in pursuit of justice must never 
despair. Let us again try and see whether we cannot devise some way 
to overcome the united forces of self-righteous Republicans and un- 
righteous copperheads. It will not do for those who for thirty years 
have fought the beasts at Ephesus to be frightened by the fangs of 
modern catamounts." 63 

Thaddeus Stevens continued his speech, May 10: "Let not these 
friends of secession sing to me their siren song of peace and good will 
until they can stop my ears to the screams and groans of the dying 
victims at Memphis. I hold in my hand an elaborate account from a 
man whom I know to be of the highest respectability in the country, 
every word of which I believe. This account of that foul transaction 
only reached me last night. It is more horrible in its atrocity, although 
not to the same extent, than the massacre at Jamaica. Tell me Tennes- 
see or any other State is loyal of whom such things are proved! . . . 

"Ah, sir, it was but six years ago when they were here, just before 
they went out to join the armies of Cataline, just before they left this 
Hall. Those of you who were here then will remember the scene in 
which every Southern member, encouraged by their allies, came forth 
in one yelling body, because a speech for freedom was being made 
here; when weapons were drawn, and Barksdale's bowie-knife 
gleamed before our eyes. Would you have these men back again so 
soon to reenact those scenes ? Wait until I am gone, I pray you. I want 
not to go through it again. It will be but a short time for my col- 
leagues to wait. . . . 

"Now, sir, if the gentlemen had remembered the scenes twenty 
years ago, when no man dared to speak without risking his life, when 
but a few men did do it — for there were cowards in those days, as 
there are in these — you would not have found them asking to bring 
these men in, and I only wonder that my friend from Ohio [Mr. 
Bingham] should intimate a desire to bring them here." 

The announcement of the vote, May 10, was 128 to 37, 19 not vot- 
ing. It was received with applause on the floor and in the galleries. 
Mr. Elridge of Wisconsin rose angrily to a question of order. "I want 
to know if it is understood that the proceedings of this House are to 
be interrupted by those who come here and occupy the galleries." 

"The gentleman from Wisconsin," replied the speaker, "makes the 
point of order that expressions of approbation or disapprobation from 
persons occupying the galleries are not in order. The chair sustains the 
point of order." But Mr. Elridge was still angry. 

"I do not want our proceedings to be interrupted by the 'niggerheads' 
in the galleries." 


The galleries hissed and Stevens asked, "Is it in order for members 
on the floor to disturb those in the galleries?" 

"Members upon the floor should not insult the spectators in the 
galleries," said the speaker. 64 

The Fourteenth Amendment came up in the Senate April 30, but 
Fessenden was still ill and no action was taken for two weeks. Finally, 
May 23, Howard of Michigan began the debate. He declared that the 
object of the Fourteenth Amendment was primarily to give Congress 
the power to enforce the guarantees of freedom in the first eight amend- 
ments to the Constitution. The West, led by Sherman, Doolittle and 
others, tried to reintroduce voters as the basis of representation. New 
England, through Senator Wilson of Massachusetts, was opposed to 
striking from the basis of representation 2,100,000 unnaturalized for- 
eigners who gave the North 17 representatives. Sherman did not agree. 
"If it is right to exclude four millions of blacks in the Southern 
states who are denied representation, is it not also right to exclude all 
other classes in every other state who are denied political power?" 

The question of Negro citizenship was discussed, and Julian of In- 
diana opposed the conservative stand; to follow conservatism we would 
recognize the revolting states as still in the Union; it opposes the pro- 
tection of the millions of loyal colored people of the South through the 
agency of the Freedmen's Bureau; it opposes the Civil Rights Bill; it 
opposes, with all bitterness, the policy of giving the freedmen the bal- 
lot. On the other hand, radicalism would hold treason a crime; it 
would base representation on the actual voters; it favors the protection 
of the colored people of the South through the Freedmen's Bureau 
and the Civil Rights Bill; it demands the ballot as the right of every 
colored citizen. 

Evidently the breach between the East and West was growing, and 
coupled with Sumner's attitude, it looked as though the Fourteenth 
Amendment was again doomed. The Republican party fell back upon 
the caucus. From May 24 to May 28, the Senate was in session but a 
few hours, which gave the Republicans time to discuss the whole mat- 
ter in party caucus. The party at that time showed clear division into 
conservative, industrial elements, like Fessenden, Trumbull and Mor- 
gan; and the abolition-democracy, led by Sumner, Wade and Yates. 
The opposition of Sumner and the abolition-democracy was finally 
overcome by the plain facts of the case: this was the utmost that could 
be got from Congress in defense of democracy. Was it not worth 
taking? What could be hoped for in further delay? 

As a result of the caucuses, certain amendments were made. The 
second section was amended to strike out the word "citizen" and in- 
sert "inhabitants being citizens of the United States." A new first sec- 


tion was inserted: "That all persons born or naturalized in the United 
States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United 
States and of states wherein they reside." 

The Senate's changes thus consisted in defining who were citizens, 
and in substituting for disfranchisement of all participants in secession 
until 1870, the ineligibility of certain high officials; it opened the elec- 
tive franchise to such persons as the states may choose to admit, and 
adopted the third section in its present form. 

We have thus followed, as well as records let us, the inner history of 
the Reconstruction measures of Congress in the Committee of Fifteen 
and other sources. Now let us look at the proceedings of Congress, as 
negotiations on these matters rose among the leaders, here and there 
and now and then, in a sea of struggling unorganized action. 

In the matter of civil rights, the final draft of the Fourteenth 
Amendment said: 

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject 
to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the 
State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law 
which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the 
United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, 
or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within 
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 

The first proposition on civil rights was introduced into the House 
by Mr. Stevens, December 5, 1865. On December 6, Bingham of Ohio 
offered an amendment. Both these resolutions went to the Committee 
on the Judiciary. Two other propositions were introduced December 
11. February 1, 1866, a motion was passed directing the Committee of 
Fifteen to inquire into this matter. Williams suggested an amendment, 
February 5, empowering Congress to enforce "all obligations, prohibi- 
tions or disabilities imposed by the Constitution on the several 
states." 66 February 13, 1866, the Committee of Fifteen, as we have 
noted, reported to both Houses a proposed amendment by Mr. Bing- 
ham in the House and by Mr. Fessenden in the Senate. Both motions 
were indefinitely postponed, and there was a strong desire to get the 
whole final report of the Committee of Fifteen. 

On March 9, 1866, while the Senate was discussing the apportion- 
ment of representatives, Senator Yates of Illinois moved an amend- 
ment for civil and political rights, but it secured only seven votes. Two 
other and similar propositions were made in the Senate but received 
small support. The first section of the resolution reported to the House 
April 30, 1866, became eventually the civil rights section of the Four- 
teenth Amendment passed by the House, but the Senate, as we have 
seen, did not adopt it. Several attempts were made to amend it in the 


Senate: Mr. Wade offered a substitute for the entire resolution, but 
the whole proposition failed. When the second proposition came before 
the Senate, May 30, Howard of Michigan, in behalf of Senate mem- 
bers of the Joint Committee, presented a series of resolutions which 
had been adopted by the Republican caucus as a substitute for the 
House Amendment. The substitute was accepted. The first change 
was to prefix these words to the first clause of the amendment: "All 
persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction 
thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they 

Later, Fessenden of Maine secured the inclusion of "naturalized 
persons." Senator Johnson of Maryland tried unsuccessfully to strike 
out the guarantee that states should not make or enforce any law to 
abridge the privileges of immunity of citizens. 
Disability for participation in secession was covered by Section III : 
"No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or 
elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or mili- 
tary, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previ- 
ously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the 
United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an execu- 
tive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the 
United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against 
the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress 
may, by a vote of two-thirds of each house, remove such disability." 
Four amendments on disabilities for participation in the rebellion 
were introduced in 1866. In the report of the Committee of Fifteen 
April 30, 1866, there was included a third section by which all persons 
who voluntarily adhered to the late insurrection were excluded from 
the right to vote until July 4, 1870. Attempts were made to amend this 
in the House. When the resolution reached the Senate there were 15 
(attempts to alter this section. On May 30, Senator Howard of Michi- 
gan in behalf of the Senate members of the Joint Committee on Re- 
construction presented a new draft in which he proposed in place of 
the third section, the provision which now appears in the Fourteenth 
Amendment. Many efforts were made to amend it. The Democratic 
Senators seemed to prefer the Howard substitute to the House amend- 
ment. This section passed. 
The question of suffrage for Negroes was covered by Section II: 
"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States ac- 
cording to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of 
persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right 
to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice- 
President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the execu- 


tive or judicial officers of a State, or the members of the legislature 
thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being 
twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any 
way abridged except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the 
basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which 
the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of 
male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State." 

This question of Negro suffrage gave rise to five proposed amend- 
ments just before the Civil War. All these excluded persons of Negro 
descent from the right to vote, and most of them excluded from them 
the right to hold office. 

In the opening days of the 39th Congress, there were six propositions 
to guarantee the right to vote to Negroes. Two proposed an educa- 
tional standard in voting for Federal officials. Boutwell proposed an 
amendment making unlawful any distinction in the elective franchise 
on account of race or color. Another amendment proposed to give 
Congress power to define the qualifications of voters, and members of 
Congress, and of Presidential electors. Henderson, January 23, 1866, 
proposed an amendment denying the state the right to discriminate 

: against voters on account of race or color. January 22, 1866, the pro- 
posal on the apportionment of Representatives and abridgment of 
Representatives was presented by the Committee of Fifteen to the 

i House. It was recommitted January 29, and reported again January 31. 
It passed January 31. 

In the Senate, there were five attempts to amend this resolution. 
Sumner presented a resolution making color discrimination impossible 

1 in the courtroom or ballot-box. This was rejected, 39 to 8. Howard 
proposed to admit to the franchise Negroes in the army and navy, or 

i those able to read and write, or those who had property to the value 
of $250. This was not acted on. Sumner again attempted to amend the 
resolution by making illegal discrimination on account of race and 
color. It was lost, 39-8. A similar proposal by Yates of Illinois was 

i rejected. 

Three other propositions to amend the Constitution, relative to the 
suffrage, were introduced before the close of this Congress. One was a 
proposition by Stewart of Nevada on March 16; this foreshadowed the 
subsequent "Grandfather Clause." It admitted the Southern states on 
several conditions, one of which was : "The extension of the elective 
franchise to all persons upon the same terms and conditions, making 
no discrimination on account of race, color or previous condition of 
servitude; provided that those who were qualified to vote in the year 
; i860 by the laws of their respective states shall not be disfranchised by 


reason of any new tests or conditions which have been or may be pre- 
scribed since that year. 

"That when the aforementioned condition shall have been complied 
with and ratified by a majority of the present voting population, a 
general amnesty shall be proclaimed. 

"That all the loyal states be respectfully requested to incorporate in 
their constitutions an amendment corresponding to the one above de- 

"That it is not intended to assert a coercive power on the part of 
Congress, in regard to the regulation of the suffrage in the different 
states, but only to make an appeal to their own good sense and love of 
country, with a view to the prevention of serious evils now threatened." 

Seward said in 1870, "When the Reconstruction question arose about 
the Fourteenth Amendment, I proposed that all persons born in the 
United States after the date of Mr. Lincoln's proclamation abolishing 
slavery should be entitled to vote on arriving at the age of twenty-one 
years, and this should enter into Reconstruction." 67 

The resolution for the new Fourteenth Amendment passed the Sen- 
ate June 8, 1866, by a vote of 33-1 1; five members not voting. The 
amended resolution was brought before the House and was called up 
June 13. After a limited debate, the amendments made by the Senate 
were concurred in by a vote of 120-32, thirty-two not voting. Thus the 
Fourteenth Amendment was sent to the states for approval. 

After the President's veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, many 
members wanted the question immediately reconsidered, and the day 
after the President's speech of February 22, Senator Wilson introduced 
a bill which was not reported. The legislatures of several states ap- 
proved of a bill, by petitions which urged maintaining the Bureau. 
The President tried to counteract this by sending two agents, Generals 
Steedman and Fullerton, to investigate the Bureau. They were both in 
sympathy with his policy and made a tour of four months. They com- 
mended Howard and believed that the Bureau had done much to pre- 
serve order and organize free labor, but that it had sometimes been 
dishonestly and injudiciously administered, and that it was time for it 
to come to an end. 

This report was widely circulated and discussed. The charges were 
investigated and public confidence in the Bureau was shaken. Never- 
theless, May 22, a bill to continue the Bureau was introduced. It dif- 
fered from the bill of February 9, in limiting the Bureau to two years. 
Land held under Sherman's orders was to be restored to former own- 
ers and other land furnished the dispossessed freedmen. Army officers 
were retained in the service of the Bureau, and commissioners were 
authorized to cooperate with agents of benevolent associations; prop- 


erty was to be appropriated for the education of the freedmen, and 
military protection of their civil rights guaranteed. 

After discussion, the bill passed the House May 29, by vote of 96-32. 
In the Senate, the bill was amended and a conference was held. The 
conference agreed that the questions arising out of Sherman's orders 
should be left entirely with the President for settlement. On June 16, 
the President vetoed the bill and called the Freedmen's Bureau a 
proposition to transfer four million slaves from their original owners to 
a new set of taskmasters. By a severe exercise of party discipline, ac- 
cording to Blaine, the necessary two-thirds vote was procured in each 
House, and the bill passed over the President's veto on the same day 
that it was received. Thus government guardianship of freedmen was 
given a temporary extension under a grudging and partly inimical 
administration. The disposition of Congress to yield in part to the 
President was manifest. 

On June 6, the Committee of Fifteen was reappointed. Sub-commit- 
tees had been taking testimony all over the South. 

The final report of the Committee of Fifteen was made June 18. It 
made an eight hundred page book and 100,000 copies were distributed. 
Its majority and minority sections summed up the strongest arguments 
available for and against the proposed methods of Reconstruction. The 
part of the majority report that touched the Negro said: 

"Slavery had been abolished by constitutional amendment. A large 
proportion of the population had become, instead of mere chattels, 
free men and citizens. Through all the past struggle these had re- 
mained true and loyal, and had, in large numbers, fought on the side 
of the Union. It was impossible to abandon them without securing 
them their rights as free men and citizens. The whole civilized world 
would have cried out against such base ingratitude, and the bare idea 
is offensive to all right-thinking men. Hence, it became important to 
inquire what could be done to secure their rights, civil and political. 
It was evident to your committee that adequate security could only be 
found in appropriate constitutional provisions. . . . The increase of 
representation necessarily resulting from the abolition of slavery was 
considered the most important element in the questions arising out of 
the changed condition of affairs, and the necessity for some funda- 
mental action in this regard seemed imperative. 

"It appeared to your committee that the rights of these persons by 
whom the basis of representation had been thus increased should be 
recognized by the General Government. While slaves, they were not 
considered as having any rights, civil or political. It did not seem just 
or proper that all the political advantages derived from their becoming 
free should be confined to their former masters, who had fought 


against the Union, and withheld from themselves, who had always 
been loyal. . . . 

"Doubts were entertained whether Congress had power, even under 
the amended Constitution, to prescribe the qualifications of voters in a 
state, or could act directly on the subject. It was doubtful, in the opin- 
ion of your committee, whether the states would consent to surrender 
a power they had always exercised, and to which they were attached. 
As the best, if not the only, method of surmounting the difficulty, and 
as eminently just and proper in itself, your committee came to the 
conclusion that political power should be possessed in all the states 
exactly in proportion as the right of suffrage should be granted, with- 
out distinction of color or race. . . . 

"It appears quite clear that the anti-slavery amendments, both to the 
state and Federal Constitutions, were adopted in the South with re- 
luctancy by the bodies which did adopt them, while in some states 
they have been either passed by in silence or rejected. The language of 
all the provisions and ordinances of these states on the subject amounts 
to nothing more than an unwilling admission of an unwelcome 
truth. . . . 

"Looking still further at the evidence taken by your committee, it is 
found to be clearly shown, by witnesses of the highest character, and 
having the best means of observation, that the Freedmen's Bureau, 
instituted for the relief and protection of freedmen and refugees, is 
almost universally opposed by the mass of the population, and exists 
in an efficient condition only under military protection, while the 
Union men of the South are earnest in its defense, declaring with one 
voice that without its protection the colored people would not be per- 
mitted to labor at fair prices, and could hardly live in safety. They also 
testify that without the protection of United States troops Union men, 
whether of Northern or Southern origin, would be obliged to abandon 
their homes. The feeling in many portions of the country towards the 
emancipated slaves, especially among the uneducated and ignorant, is 
one of vindictive and malicious hatred. This deep-seated prejudice 
against color is assiduously cultivated by the public journals, and leads 
to acts of cruelty, oppression, and murder, which the local authorities 
are at no pains to prevent or punish. There is no general disposition 
to place the colored race, constituting at least two-fifths of the popula- 
tion, upon terms even of civil equality. While many instances may be 
found where large planters and men of the better class accept the situa- 
tion, and honestly strive to bring about a better order of things by em- 
ploying the freedmen at fair wages and treating them kindly, the gen- 
eral feeling and disposition among all classes are yet totally averse to 
the toleration of any class of people friendly to the Union, be they white 


or black; and this aversion is not infrequently manifested in an in- 
sulting and offensive manner. . . ." 68 

This part of the report was signed by twelve members of the Com- 
mittee. The other three members submitted a Minority Report. It was 
in the main, the old metaphysical argument, signed by Johnson, the 
constitutional lawyer from Maryland, Rogers, the extreme advocate of 
Southern rights from New Jersey, and Grider. 

"They are asked to disfranchise a numerous class of their citizens, 
and also to agree to diminish their representation in Congress, and of 
course in the electoral college, or to admit to the right of suffrage their 
colored males of twenty-one years of age and upwards (a class now 
in a condition of almost utter ignorance), thus placing them on the 
same political footing with white citizens of that age. For reasons so 
obvious that the dullest may discover them, the right is not directly 
asserted of granting suffrage to the Negro. That would be obnoxious 
to most of the Northern and Western states, so much so that their 
consent was not to be anticipated; but as the plan adopted, because of 
the limited number of Negroes in such States, will have no effect on 
their representation, it is thought it may be adopted, while in the 
Southern States it will materially lessen their number. 

"That these latter States will assent to the measure can hardly be 
expected. The effect, then, if not the purpose, of the measure is forever 
to deny representatives to such States, or, if they consent to the con- 
dition, to weaken their representative power, and thus, probably, se- 
cure a continuance of such a party in power as now controls the legis- 
lation of the government. The measure, in its terms and its effect, 
whether designed or not, is to degrade the Southern States. To consent 
to it will be to consent to their own dishonor." 

Neither Sumner nor Stevens was satisfied with the Fourteenth 
Amendment. On the last day of the session, July 28, 1866, Thaddeus 
Stevens made his last defense of Negro suffrage. He was at the time 
worn out; his health was precarious; he was seventy-three years of 
age, and he hardly expected to return to his seat in the House. With 
deep solemnity, he sought " 'to make one more — perhaps an expiring — 
effort to do something which shall be useful to my fellow men; some- 
thing to elevate and enlighten the poor, the oppressed, and the igno- 
rant in this great crisis of human affairs.' The black man, he declared, 
must have the ballot or he would continue to be a slave. There was 
some alleviation to the lot of a bondman, but 'a freeman deprived of 
every human right, is the most degraded of human beings.' Without 
the protection of the ballot-box the freedmen were 'the mere serfs,' 
and would become 'the victims of their former masters.' He declared 
that what he had done he had done for humanity. 'I know it is easy,' 


he said, 'to protect the interests of the rich and powerful; but it is a 
great labor to guard the rights of the poor and downtrodden — it is the 
eternal labor of Sisyphus, forever to be renewed. In this, perhaps my 
final action on this great question, I can see nothing in my political 
course, especially in regard to human freedom, which I could wish to 
have expunged or changed. I believe that we must all account here- 
after for deeds done in the body, and that political deeds will be among 
those accounts. I desire to take to the bar of that final settlement the 
record which I shall this day make on the great question of human 
rights. While I am sure it will not make atonement for half my errors, 
I hope it will be some palliation. Are there any who will venture to 
take the list with their negative seal upon it, and who will dare to un- 
roll it before that stern judge who is the Father of the immortal beings 
whom they have been trampling under foot, and whose souls they 
have been crushing out?" 69 

This was not, in fact, his last speech, but it had the tone of a final 
message. Congress adjourned before a congressional plan of recon- 
struction reached its final form, but its general outline was clear, and 
no further compromise between the congressional majority and John- 
son was possible. 

Already, the President's attitude on the Fourteenth Amendment and 
Reconstruction had led to two suicides, the resignation of three mem- 
bers of the Cabinet; and although Stanton remained, his retention 
caused the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Sumner, much against 
his will, had remained silent when the Senate, by party caucus, had de- 
cided upon the Fourteenth Amendment. On the last day of Congress, 
he wrote the Duchess of Argyll: 

"The suffering at the South is great, through the misconduct of the 
President. His course has kept the rebel spirit alive, and depressed the 
loyal, white and black. It makes me very sad to see this. Considering 
the difficulties of their position, the blacks have done wonderfully well. 
They should have had a Moses as a President; but they had found a 
Pharaoh." 70 

Particularly had the situation in Louisiana become tense. The New 
Orleans riot of July 30, 1866, confirmed the Abolitionists in their opin- 
ion that the reconstructed states were in the power of the rebels, and 
that they were using their power to put the Negro back into slavery; 
and that no man, white or black, who was friendly to the Union, .was 
safe in the South. There were reported a thousand murders in the 
South, with few of the criminals brought to justice. And the country 
was convinced that the President had disrupted the Union party, and 
was conspiring with Democrats, North and South, to drive out the 


In the election of 1866, there was on the side of Congress, a Union 
party with a center bloc of Republicans; a left wing of radical Aboli- 
tionists, and a right wing of reactionary War Democrats. Andrew 
Johnson tried to unite the Western Radicals and the War Democrats 
into a new third party, to be reenforced eventually by the returned 
Secessionists. But between extreme democracy and reaction there was 
no common ground. He only succeeded in getting the support of a few 
of the War Democrats, and the copperheads, who were either South- 
erners living North, or Northern men with Southern principles. 

State and national conventions met. Johnson and his friends started 
out August 14 to form a Johnson Party. The National Union Conven- 
tion met in Philadelphia with states North and South represented. A 
special wigwam, two stories high, was erected on Girard Avenue, seat- 
ing ten thousand people. The interior was decorated with flags. Horace 
Greeley called it a bread and butter convention, composed of 99% of 
rebels and copperheads. Thomas Nast ridiculed the convention in his 
cartoons in Harper s Weekly. 

Their declaration of principles, accepted unanimously, declared the 
war had maintained the Constitution and the Union unaltered, and 
that neither Congress nor the general Government had any authority 
to deny the constitutional right of congressional representation 
to any state. They urged the election of Congressmen who would 
admit all "loyal" representatives from the South. They affirmed 
the inability of a state either to secede or exclude any other state from 
the Union, and the constitutional right of each state to decide for itself 
the qualifications for voting, within its borders. They insisted that the 
Constitution could not be legally amended, except with all the states 
voting in Congress, and action by all the legislatures. They denied any 
desire in the Southern states to restore slavery. They proclaimed the 
invalidity of the rebel debts, the inviolability of the Federal debt, and 
the right of freedmen to the same protection of persons and property 
as afforded to whites. They urged government aid for Federal soldiers 
and their families. Finally, they expressed whole-hearted endorsement 
of Andrew Johnson. 

The weakness of this meeting was that, first, it contained in fact 
few Republicans, most of the delegates being well-known Democrats 
who had opposed Lincoln. It was dubbed the conference of "copper- 
heads," and among the delegates were Vallandigham and Fernando 
Wood. Secondly, the meeting was not followed up with careful organ- 

No sooner had this convention adjourned than Southern Loyalists 
met in Philadelphia on September 3, to confer with Northern Repub- 
licans, including Horace Greeley, John Jacob Astor, Carl Schurz, 


Frederick Douglass, Brownlow, Thomas E. Benton, Morton, Cameron, 
and Gerry. This conference met in two parts, one Northern and one 

Frederick Douglass was elected delegate from Rochester to attend 
the convention. It was a great honor for a black man in a white city. 
On the train, he met Southern and Western delegates, including Gov- 
ernor Oliver P. Morton of Indiana. After consultation, a committee 
waited on him, and through a Louisiana spokesman, insisted on their 
high respect for him, but also on their fear that it was inexpedient for 
him to attend the convention, on account of the cry of social and po- 
litical equality which would be raised against the Republican party. 
Douglass replied: "Gentlemen, with all respect, you might as well ask 
me to put a loaded pistol to my head and blow my brains out, as to 
ask me to keep out of this convention, to which I have been duly 
elected." 71 

He pointed out that the fact of his election was widely known, and 
his failure to attend would be inexplicable. Later, he was warned 
against walking in the procession, and for a while it looked as if he 
would have to walk alone, until Theodore Tilton of New York offered 
to walk with him. In that parade, he met a daughter of his former 

During the convention, Speed, who had just resigned from the 
Cabinet, called the President a tyrant, and the Southern Loyalists at- 
tacked Johnson, but split on Negro suffrage. A part of the convention 
finally adopted this declaration: ". . . The Government by national 
and appropriate legislation, enforced by national authority, shall con- 
fer on every citizen in the States we represent, the American birth- 
right of impartial suffrage and equality before the law. This is the one 
all-sufficient remedy. This is our great and pressing necessity." 72 

Governor Brownlow of Tennessee, in discussing Negro suffrage at 
this same convention on September 3, 1866, said: 

"Some gentlemen, from a mistaken view of my character, said they 
were afraid of Negro Suffrage, and wanted to dodge it. I have never 
dodged any subject, nor have I ever been found on both sides of any 
subject. While I am satisfied with everything done here, I would go 
further. I am an advocate of Negro suffrage, and impartial suffrage. 
I would rather associate with loyal Negroes than with disloyal white 
men. I would rather be buried in a Negro graveyard than in a rebel 
graveyard; and after death I would sooner go to a Negro heaven than 
a white rebel's hell." 73 

There followed in September two military conventions, one in 
Cleveland, September 18, by friends of Johnson, which did not men- 
tion Negro suffrage. It denounced the Abolitionists and said that they 


were trying to force another war. It contained many Democrats and a 
few conservative Republicans. Confederate officers at Memphis, in- 
cluding General Forrest of Fort Pillow fame, sent sympathy by tele- 
gram, which was unfortunate publicity. In answer to this a National 
Convention of "Citizens, Soldiers and Sailors" was held at Pittsburgh, 
September 25 and 26. There were many volunteer officers of high rank 
and Johnson was denounced and the Fourteenth Amendment advo- 
cated. This convention had great influence on public opinion and pop- 
ularized the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The issue in the election of the fall of 1866, turned on whether Con- 
gress should recognize Southern states as reconstructed by Johnson. 
It was not a presidential year, but congressmen and state legislatures 
were to be elected. 

The real campaign began in August, with the fourteenth of August 
convention in Philadelphia. This convention greatly encouraged John- 
son, and he wrote it, attacking Congress for preventing the restoration 
of peace and union, and denying that it was really a legal Congress. 
"If I had wanted authority, or if I had wished to perpetuate my own 
power, how easily could I have held and wielded that which was 
placed in my hands by the measure called Freedmen's Bureau Bill." 74 

On July 4, he had issued another proclamation of general amnesty, 
and on August 20, he declared the Civil War at an end. Already, in 
the spring, he had promised to lay the cornerstone of a monument to 
Stephen A. Douglas in Chicago, and he left Washington, August 28, 
on a great campaign tour, which was to sweep the country. He took 
General Grant with him and members of his Cabinet, and Seward 
joined him in New York. Johnson stopped at Philadelphia, New York, 
Albany, and then went West by way of Cleveland, Chicago and St. 

It was an extraordinary and increasingly painful effort, by which 
Johnson definitely defeated himself and his own political policies. He 
showed genius for saying the wrong thing. In New York, for instance, 
he asked, "Are we prepared, after the cost of war, to continue the dis- 
rupted condition of the country? Why are we afraid of the representa- 
tives of the South? Some have grown fat, some have grown rich by 
the aggression and destruction of others." 

In Philadelphia, he declared that God was a tailor, like himself. At 
Cleveland his audience became a mob while the President himself in- 
creased the hubbub. The city authorities had made preparations for a 
polite reception, but as he proceeded with his harangue, the mob took 
complete possession of the crowd. Someone cried, "Why not hang 
Thad Stevens and Wendell Phillips?" "Yes," yelled Johnson, "why 
not hang them?" 75 


Some towns hung out blacks flags and banners, "No welcome to 
traitors." Bands played the death march; Johnson shouted in defiance. 
His egotism was ridiculed. He was charged with being drunk, a 
traitor and a demagogue. On he reeled. As Burgess said, "The trip 
degraded the presidential office." The New York Tribune watched it 
with a "feeling of national shame," and called it "the stumbling tour 
of an inebriated demagogue." The New York World excused him by 
asking: "Who of all presidents had been lower than Lincoln in per- 
sonal bearing?" The Herald put the blame on Seward's shoulders, 
"the Mephistopheles of the administration." Lowell called the jour- 
ney "an indecent orgy"; Rhodes says he was "intoxicated" at Cleve- 
land, while Schouler declares he was sober. The culmination came in 
St. Louis, where Johnson declared that the blood of the New Orleans 
riot was on Congress, and decried the "diabolical and nefarious policies 
of Stevens, Phillips and Sumner." 

The most charitable thing that the defenders of Andrew Johnson 
can say of him is that occasionally he got drunk; for too much liquor 
alone would excuse such extraordinary conduct and performances as 
his Vice-Presidential inauguration, his speech of February 22, 1866, 
his exhibition at Cleveland, and his St. Louis debauch. If he was not 
an occasional drunkard, he was God's own fool. 

"He returned to Washington," as Schurz says, "an utterly discom- 
fited and disgraced man, having gone out to win popular support, and 
having earned only public disgust." 

The role of Seward during this episode was pathetic. One of the 
wits of the time spoke of Seward's new office of bear-leader. "Unfor- 
tunately he was very unsuccessful even in this task, for he could do 
little more than apologize for Johnson, and in a few commonplace 
sentences call upon the audience to support the President in opposition 
to Congress. At Niagara, he told the crowd that Lincoln had been 
traduced when alive, but after his assassination all hearts inclined to 
the deepest sorrow; and it would be the same if Johnson should be 
taken off. To the citizens of Buffalo he stated the issue as follows: 
'The question is between the President and the Congress. Of all that 
has been done to bring us so near the consummation [of Reconstruc- 
tion] you see that nothing has been done that was not done through 
the direction, agency, activity, perseverance and patriotism of Andrew 
Johnson, President of the United States. Will you stand by Congress? 
Or will you stand by the President?'" 

The Republicans took every advantage of the situation. They saw 
in Johnson the instinct of the poor white cropping out. "He cannot 
shake of! the boot-licking proclivity, born and bred in him, towards 
the aristocracy of the South. Miserable fool!" 


Stevens made but one speech in the campaign of 1866. He said that 
he had been directed by his physician neither to think, speak nor read 
until the next session of Congress; that he had followed the orders not 
to read almost literally. "It is true, I have amused myself with a little 
light, frivolous reading. For instance, there was a serial account from 
day to day of a very remarkable circus that traveled through the coun- 
try, from Washington to Chicago and St. Louis, and from Louisville 
back to Washington. I read that with some interest, expecting to see 
in so celebrated an establishment, — one which from its heralding was 
to beat Dan Rice and all the old circuses that ever went forth, — I ex- 
pected great wit from the celebrated character of its clowns." 76 

As the campaign of 1866 progressed, the agitation in favor of grant- 
ing suffrage to the Negro as a necessary protection of his freedom be- 
came marked. First of all, Industry and Trade were convinced that 
they could not trust the white South. Therefore, the more extreme 
ideas which Stevens had advocated, were allowed to be broadcast. 
Their logic was strong and their methods popular. People had faith in 
laws and wanted some great enactment in keeping with the greatness 
of the war. It was a ripe time for amending the Constitution and in- 
augurating final reforms. These reforms might be in advance at the 
time, but they were worth trying, and there appeared to be no middle 

Thus, as the campaign went on, Negro suffrage occupied a more 
and more important position. Stevens, Wade, Sumner, Chase, Schurz 
and Chandler were in favor of it. To many Northerners it had been 
at first unthinkable, but more and more they became convinced. The 
Nation urged full Negro suffrage and Negro civil rights, but opposed 
the exclusion of white leaders from office. 

"The doctrine that 'this is a white man's government and intended 
for white men only,' is, as the Perrys profess it, as monstrous a doc- 
trine as was ever concocted." To allow the states to reorganize on this 
basis, the Nation added, "will make the very name of American 
democracy a hissing and a byword among the nations of the earth. 
. . . To have this theory of the nature of our government boldly thrust 
in our faces now, after the events of the last four years, by men who 
have come red-handed from the battlefield, and to whose garments 
the blood of our brothers and sons still clings; and to know that the 
President, who owes in part at least his ability to be President to the 
valor and blood of colored troops, concurs with them in this scandal- 
ous repudiation of democratic principles, are things which the country, 
we trust, will find it hard to bear." 77 

For a brief period — for the seven mystic years that stretched be- 
tween Johnson's "Swing round the Circle" to the Panic of 1873, the 


majority of thinking Americans of the North believed in the equal 
manhood of Negroes. They acted accordingly with a thoroughness 
and clean-cut decision that no age which does not share that faith 
can in the slightest comprehend. They did not free draft animals, nor 
enfranchise gorillas, nor welcome morons to Congress. They simply 
recognized black folk as men. "The South called for war," said James 
Russell Lowell, "and we have given it to her. We will fix the terms 
of peace ourselves and we will teach the South that Christ is dis- 
guised in a dusky race." 78 

Then came in 1873-76 sudden and complete disillusion not at 
Negroes but at the world — at business, at work, at religion, at art. A 
bitter protest of Southern property reenforced Northern reaction; and 
while after long years the American world recovered in most matters, 
it has never yet quite understood why it could ever have thought that 
black men were altogether human. 

There were men in the South and former slaveholders who knew the 
truth and spoke it. They knew that there could be no salvation for the 
South in time or eternity, until the former slave went forth as a man. 
But the intrenched intolerance of the South, coupled with the awful 
grief at the death of the flower of Southern manhood, let such prophets 
speak but few words. They spoke here and there in nearly every South- 
ern state, but they were soon threatened into silence; and there pre- 
vailed a bitter hatred and cry for vengeance from people who could 
not brook defeat because they had been used to victory, and had the 
slave-born habit of arrogance. For their grief, none had greater sym- 
pathy than the bulk of their former slaves. They served and even suc- 
cored their former masters; and yet, upon these and their fellows, was 
eventually placed the whole wrath of the South which it could not 
turn toward the North. And especially it fell upon those freedmen 
who felt their freedom; who were uplifted by new ambition; who 
showed the gathered resentment of two hundred years of whipping, 
kicks and cuffs; in fine, on them who had rolling in their ears God's 
great: "Deposuit potentes — " 

"He hath put down the Mighty 
From their seats 
And hath exalted them 
Of low degree!" 

After the final elections of 1866, the Republicans had 143 members 
in the House, and the Democrats 49. All states gave strong majorities 
to the Republican party, except the Border States of Maryland, Dela- 
ware and Kentucky. In the South, Democratic candidates were uni- 


versally successful. Not counting the South, the Republicans in the 
Senate had a two-thirds majority, and nearly a three-fourths majority 
in the House. 

Through the winter of 1 866-1 867, notwithstanding the results of the 
elections of 1866, the South rejected the Fourteenth Amendment. Vir- 
ginia gave one vote in favor; North Carolina, 11 out of 148; South 
Carolina, 1 vote; Georgia, 2 out of 169; Alabama, 10 out of 106; Texas, 
5, and Arkansas, 3; Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana were unani- 
mously against it. 

Thus the South defied Congress, and demanded that the disfran- 
chised Negro should be counted as basis of representation. The South 
was encouraged in this stand by the President. The Governor of Ala- 
bama telegraphed him that the rejection of the Fourteenth Amend- 
ment could be reconsidered by his state, but Johnson discouraged him. 
This increased the strength of the Republicans in the North. 

The President's message of December 4, 1866, with all the earmarks 
of Seward, was calm and skillful. He said that the war was ended, 
and that the nation should now proceed as a free, prosperous and 
united nation. He had already informed Congress of his efforts for 
the gradual restoration of the States. All that remained now was the 
admission to Congress of loyal Senators and Representatives. While 
Congress had been considering this, the President had appointed vari- 
ous public officials, and the Thirteenth Amendment had been passed. 
Yet Congress hesitated to admit the Southern states to representation, 
and after eight months, only Tennessee had been admitted. He wished 
to leave the whole matter of suffrage to the States and he was signifi- 
cantly silent on the Black Codes. 

The second session of the 39th Congress began December 3. The 
Senate asked for a report on the condition of the Southern states, 
since the President had said practically nothing about it. The President 
replied, December 19, 1866: 

"As a result of the measures instituted by the Executive, with the 
view of inducing a resumption of the functions of the States compre- 
hended in the inquiry of the Senate, the people of North Carolina, 
South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, 
and Tennessee, have reorganized their respective State governments, 
and are yielding obedience to the laws and government of the United 
States with more willingness and greater promptitude than under the 
circumstances could reasonably have been anticipated. The proposed 
amendment to the Constitution, providing for the abolition of slavery 
forever within the limits of the country, has been ratified by each 
one of those states, with the exception of Mississippi, from which no 


official information has yet been received; and in nearly all of them 
measures have been adopted or are now pending, to confer upon freed- 
men rights and privileges which are essential to their comfort, pro- 
tection, and security. In Florida and Texas, the people are making 
commendable progress in restoring their State governments, and no 
doubt it is entertained that they will, at an early period be in a condi- 
tion to resume all of their practical relations to the Federal Govern- 

"It is true that in some of the States the demoralizing effects of the 
war are to be seen in occasional disorders; but these are local in char- 
acter, not frequent in occurrence, and are rapidly disappearing as the 
authority of civil law is extended and sustained. Perplexing questions 
were naturally to be expected from the great and sudden change in 
the relations between the two races; but systems are gradually develop- 
ing themselves under which the freedman will receive the protection 
to which he is justly entitled, and by means of his labor make himself 
a useful and independent member of the community in which he has 
his home." 

The transubstantiation of Andrew Johnson was complete. He had 
begun as the champion of the poor laborer, demanding that the land 
monoply of the Southern oligarchy be broken up, so as to give access 
to the soil, South and West, to the free laborer. He had demanded 
the punishment of those Southerners who by slavery and war had 
made such an economic program impossible. Suddenly thrust into the 
Presidency, he had retreated from this attitude. He had not only given 
up extravagant ideas of punishment, but he dropped his demand for 
dividing up plantations when he realized that Negroes would largely 
be beneficiaries. Because he could not conceive of Negroes as men, 
he refused to advocate universal democracy, of which, in his young 
manhood, he had been the fiercest advocate, and made strong alliance 
with those who would restore slavery under another name. 

This change did not come by deliberate thought or conscious desire 
to hurt — it was rather the tragedy of American prejudice made flesh; 
so that the man born to narrow circumstances, a rebel against economic 
privilege, died with the conventional ambition of a poor white to be the 
associate and benefactor of monopolists, planters and slave drivers. In 
some respects, Andrew Johnson is the most pitiful figure of American 
history. A man who, despite great power and great ideas, became a pup- 
pet, played upon by mighty fingers and selfish, subtle minds; groping, 
self-made, unlettered and alone; drunk, not so much with liquor, as 
with the heady wine of sudden and accidental success. 


My wild soul waited on as falcons hover. 
I beat the reedy fens as I trampled past. 
I heard the mournful loon 
In the marsh beneath the moon 
And then, with feathery thunder, the bird of my desire 
Broke from the cover 
Flashing silver fire. 
High up among the stars I saw his pinions spire. 

The pale clouds gazed aghast 
As my falcon dropped upon him, and gript and held him fast. 

William Rose Benet 

1. Hall, C. A., Andrew Johnson, p. 22. 

2. Hall, C. A., Andrew Johnson, p. 21. 

3. Winston, Andrew Johnson, pp. xiv, xvi, 24, 25. 

4. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 172; Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session, 

P- 1354- 

5. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 118. 

6. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 108. 

7. Hall, Andrew Johnson, p. 27; Moore, Speeches of Andrew Johnson, p. 294. 

8. Hall, Andrew Johnson, p. 117; Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 252 

9. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 46, 47. 

10. Winston, Andrew Johnson, pp. 228, 229. 

11. Moore, Speeches of Andrew Johnson, p. xli. 

12. Winston, Andrew Johnson, pp. 260, 261. 

13. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 515. 

14. Warmoth, War, Politics and Reconstruction, p. 26. 

15. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 276. 

16. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 244. 

17. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, pp. 242-243, 245. 

18. Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction (Chase to Johnson), Vol. I, pp. 142, 


19. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, p. 246. 

20. Schurz, Reminiscences, III, pp. 202, 203. 

21. Schurz, Reminiscences, III, pp. 201-204. 

22. Beale, The Critical Year, p. 68. Footnote. 

23. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 19, 20. 

24. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, pp. 267-268. 

25. Pierce, Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, IV, pp. 258-259. 

26. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, p. 49. 

27. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 50, 51. 

28. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 314. 

29. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 6. 

30. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 30. 

31. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 381. 

32. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, pp. 74, 75. 

33. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 154. 

34. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 43. 

35. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, pp. 90, 91. 

36. Cf. Pierce, Charles Sumner, IV. Note at bottom, p. 272. 

37. Pierce, Freedmen's Bureau, p. 59 (for Sections I-VI); Flack, The Adoption of the 

Fourteenth Amendment, p. 13 (Johns Hopkins University Studies, XXVI). 


38. Report of Committee on Reconstruction, Part III, pp. 65, 66 (Judge Humphreys). 

39. Speech of March 19, 1867. 

40. Winston, Andrew Johnson, p. 343. 

41. Seward, Worlds, VII, p. 532. 

42. McPherson, History of U. S. During Reconstruction, pp. 60, 61. 

43. Cf. Oberholtzer, A History of the U. S. Since the Civil War, I, p. 171. 

44. Pierce, Charles Sumner, IV, p. 276. 

45. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 183. 

46. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 51, 52. 

47. This account of the Committee of Fifteen mainly follows Kendrick, Journal of the 

Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction. 

48. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, pp. 356-358. 

49. Article 4, Section 2, of the Constitution. 

50. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 536. 

51. New York Nation, Jan. 11, 1866. 

52. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, Vol. II, pp. 146-147. 

53. Beale, The Critical Year, p. 229. 

54. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part I, p. 673. 

55. Life and Times of Frederic!^ Douglass, p. 442. 

56. Life and Times of Frederic^ Douglass, p. 467. 

57. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 52-55. 

58. Life and Times of Frederic^ Douglass, pp. 467-468. 

59. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part IV, p. 3148. 

60. Kendrick, Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, p. 300. 

61. Kendrick, Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, p. 302. 

62. Flack, Adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment (Johns Hopkins University Studies, 

XXVI, p. 128). 

63. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part III, pp. 2459, 2544-2545. 

64. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part III, p. 2545. 

65. Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 1st Session, Part IV, p. 2987. 

66. Ames, Amendments to the Constitution, p. 220. 

67. Seward, Wor\s, III, p. 24. 

68. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 88-93. 

69. McCall, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 275-76. 

70. Pierce, Charles Sumner, p. 359. 

71. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, p. 474. 

72. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, p. 242. 

73. Warmoth, War Politics and Reconstruction, p. 50. 

74. McPherson, History of United States During Reconstruction, pp. 129, 133, 137. 

75. Oberholtzer, History of U. S. After the Civil War, Vol. I, pp. 405, 406. 

76. Morse, Thaddeus Stevens, pp. 282, 283. 

77. New York Nation, Sept. 28, 1865. Cf. New York Herald, Sept. 20, 1865. 

78. North American Review, Vol. 102, p. 520. 


The price of the disaster of slavery and civil war was the necessity 
of quickly assimilating into American democracy a mass of igno- 
rant laborers in whose hands alone for the moment lay the power 
of preserving the ideals of popular government; of overthrowing a 
slave economy and establishing upon it an industry primarily for 
the profit of the workers. It was this price which in the end 
America refused to pay and today suffers for that refusal 

The year 1867 comes. The election of 1866 has sent to the 40th 
Congress a Republican majority of 42 against 11 in the Senate and 
143 against 49 in the House. The decisive battle of Reconstruction 
looms. Abolition-democracy demands for Negroes physical freedom, 
civil rights, economic opportunity and education and the right to vote, 
as a matter of sheer human justice and right. Industry demands profits 
and is willing to use for this end Negro freedom or Negro slavery, 
votes for Negroes or Black Codes. 

The South, beaten in war, and socially and economically disorgan- 
ized, was knocking at the doors of Congress with increased political 
power and with a determination to restore land monopoly, and to re- 
organize its agrarian industry, and to attempt to restore its capital by 
reducing public taxation to the lowest point. Moreover, it had not 
given up the idea that the capital which it had lost through the legal 
abolition of slavery, should and might be reimbursed from the Federal 
Treasury. Especially it was determined to use for its own ends the 
increased political power based on voteless Negroes. Finally, there was 
the West, beginning to fear the grip of land and transportation 
monopoly, rebelling against the power of Eastern industry, and stag- 
gering under the weight of public debt and public taxation. 

In the midst of these elements stood Andrew Johnson, with the tre- 
me ndous p ower which lay in his hands as commander-in-chief of the 
Army, wiriTlKcfiarge patronage which arose through the expansion 
of governmental functions during the war, and with a stubborn will 
and a resourceful and astute Secretary of State. Logically, Andrew 
Johnson as an early leader of land reform, and of democracy in in- 
dustry for the peasant-farmer and the laboring class, was in position 
to lead the democracy of the West. But perversely, he had been in- 
duced by flattery, by his Southern birth, and his dislike of New Eng- 



land puritanism, to place himself at the head of the Southerners. 
Between the program of the South and that of the West, then, there 
was absolutely no point of alliance. The South represented the ex- 
treme of reactionary capitalism based upon land and on the ownership 
of labor. It showed no sign of any more sympathy with the labor 
movement in the North or the extension of democratic methods than 
it had before the war. There was not a single labor voice raised in the 
Southern post-war clamor. Yet Johnson could not see this. He con- 
tinued to flirt with Western liberalism at the very time he was sur- 
rendering completely to Southern reaction and ultra-conservatism. 

In his advice to the South, he no longer contemplated Negro suf- 
frage in any form, and he said nothing of poor whites. In 1867, Negro 
votes were refused in the municipal elections in Virginia. Judge Moore 
asked President Johnson concerning the right of freedmen to partici- 
pate in these elections, but Johnson gave no answer. On the other hand, 
in an interview with Charles Halpine, March 5, he sought again to 
make alliance with the Western unrest. He said: "To the people 
the national debt is a thing of debt to be paid; but to the aristoc- 
racy of bonds and national securities it is a property of more than 
$2,500,000,000, from which a revenue of $180,000,000 a year is to be 
received into their pockets. So we now find that an aristocracy of the 
South, based on $3,000,000,000 in Negroes, who were a productive 
class, has disappeared, and their place in political control of the country 
is assumed by an aristocracy based on nearly $3,000,000,000 of national 
debt — a thing which is not producing anything, but which goes on 
steadily every year, and must go on for all time until the debt is paid, 
absorbing and taxing at the rate of six or seven per cent a year for 
every $100 bond that is represented in its aggregation. 

"The war of finance is the next war we have to fight; and every 
blow struck against my efforts to uphold a strict construction of the 
laws and the Constitution is in reality a blow in favor of repudiating 
the national debt. The manufacturers and men of capital in the eastern 
States and the States along the Atlantic seaboard — a mere strip or 
fringe on the broad mantle of our country, if you will examine the 
map — these are in favor of high protective, and, in fact, prohibitory 
tariffs, and also favor a contraction of the currency. But against both 
measures the interests and votes of the great producing and non- 
manufacturing States of the West stand irrevocably arrayed, and a 
glance at the map and the census statistics of the last twenty years 
will tell every one who is open to conviction how that war must end." 1 

This was a maladroit argument. It placed the national debt against 
the loss of slave property as equally sinister phenomena. It suggested 
partial repudiation and thus frightened and antagonized investors. 


It rightly protested against the extravagance of war-time finance, but 
this protest came from a man who was now the acknowledged leader 
of property and reaction in the South. What basis of alliance could 
there be between those determined to control and exploit freed labor 
in the South and those who wished to fight exploitation and monopoly 
in the West? 

Moreover, in his effort to conciliate and lead the West, Johnson at- 
tacked the most powerful enemy before him. That enemy was not 
abolition-democracy, as he falsely conceived. It was a tremendous, new, 
and rising power of organized wealth and capitalist industry in the 
North. Monopoly profits from investments were increasing, and des- 
tined to increase, and their increase depended upon a high protective 
tariff, the validity of the public debt, and the control of the national 
banks and currency. All of these things were threatened by the South 
and by Andrew Johnson as leader of the South. On the other hand, 
humanitarian radicalism, so far as the Negro was concerned, was not 
only completely harnessed to capital and property in the North, but 
its program for votes for Negroes more and more became mani- 
festly the only protection upon which Northern industry could depend. 
The Abolitionists were not enemies of capital. 

"The American Abolitionists were typical bourgeois-democratic rev- 
olutionists under specific American conditions. They felt their move- 
ment linked up with the great humanitarian causes of the day (the 
'labor question,' the 'peace question,' the emancipation of women, 
temperance, philanthropy) and with the bourgeois revolutionary move- 
ment in Europe. 'He hailed the revolution (of 1848) in France,' Moor- 
field Storey tells of Sumner, 'and similar outbreaks in other countries 
as parts of the great movement for freedom, of which the anti-slavery 
agitation in America was another part.' " 2 

But the former Abolitionists were gradually developing. Under the 
leadership of Stevens and Sumner, they were beginning to realize the 
economic foundation of the revolution necessary in the South. They 
saw that the Negro needed land and education and that his vote would 
only be valuable to him as it opened the doors to a firm economic 
foundation and real intelligence. If now they could get the industrial 
North, not simply to give the Negro the vote, but to give him land 
and give him schools, the battle would be won. Here, however, they 
were only partially successful. Stevens could not get them to listen 
to his plan of land distribution, and Sumner failed in his effort to 
provide for a national system of Negro schools. But they could and 
did get the aid of industry, commerce, and labor for Negro suffrage, 
and this vast step forward they gladly took. Public opinion followed 
philanthropy, but it was guided by Big Business. 


In the meantime, the nation was in the midst of the transition period. 
Nothing could be settled until the fate of the Fourteenth Amendment 
was known, and during this time of waiting, from July 16, 1866, 
until July 20, 1868, the status of the South and its relation to the Union 
was unsettled. Slowly, the nation voted on the Fourteenth Amend- 
ment, destined to curb the political power of the South. Most of New 
England and two Western states ratified it in the summer and fall of 
1866. Before January, seven Southern states rejected it almost unani- 
mously, and in the first three months of 1867, the whole South and 
the Border States had pronounced against it. They said, in effect, no 
Negro citizens nor voters; no guaranty of civil rights to Negroes; 
and all political power based on the counting of the full Negro popu- 
lation. The North, by 1868, had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment 
unanimously, although New Jersey, Ohio and Oregon made attempts 
to reverse their decision, when Democrats gained power in those 

There was not only the vast final problem of economics and govern- 
ment — there was an immediate transition problem. In the interval 
during which the nation was awaiting the fate of the Fourteenth 
Amendment to the Constitution, what was to be the status of the 
South? The South was in the midst of industrial, civil and political 
anarchy. Crime, force, and murder, disorganized and wandering labor- 
ers, unorganized industry, were widely in evidence. The United States 
as a sovereign nation could declare the Southern states, where rebellion 
had occurred, unorganized territory, and could rule them by civil 
government, backed by Federal police. By those who regarded the Con- 
stitution as a fetich, this might be pronounced sacrilegious, but to 
ordinary human beings it was by far the best and sanest thing that 
the nation could have done, and it would have saved the United 
States and the whole world untold injury, retrogression and world 

This was the plan of both Stevens and Sumner, and constitutional 
lawyers have pronounced it reasonable. With some reluctance, the 
nation refused to do this while the South and its friends howled in 
opposition. It was, one would have thought, an unhallowed attempt 
to rock the foundations of the universe and overthrow the kingdom 
of Almighty God. The refusal of the nation was chiefly because the 
new industry, the money-making financiers and organizers of a vast 
economic empire, hesitated at a government guardianship of labor 
and control of industry on a scale that might embarrass future free- 
dom of exploitation, and certainly would increase present taxation. 

Many advocates of abolition-democracy were also doubtful. They 
were still under the "freedom" cry of the eighteenth century and 


obsessed by the American Assumption of the nineteenth. They were 
still, on the whole, afraid of the full logic of democracy and the ability 
of the state to secure servants as honest and efficient as private industry. 
Only their most courageous leaders dared all. 

The easiest way out, then, was to prolong the military rule already 
established as a necessity of the war. This was cheapest and easiest; 
but also it was of necessity temporary. It must be a step toward civil 
rule and it must inaugurate civil rule. The law of March 2, 1867, 
was enacted. It provided for Negro suffrage. What else could it have 
provided for? If it had confined the vote to whites, not only would 
the anti-Negro legislation be confirmed, but the gift of additional 
political power to the South to be used against Northern industry 
and against democracy would be outright and irrevocable. Johnson 
vetoed the bill, and when it was passed over his veto, had recourse to 
executive action which would nullify it. Eventually it was this that 
led to the attempt to impeach him. 

Let us now, more in detail, study the facts of this development. The 
second session of the 39th Congress assembled in December, 1866, with 
a distinct mandate from the people. This mandate called for the re- 
organization of the Southern states on the basis of the Fourteenth 
Amendment, and for the definiteness of this mandate the South had 
only itself and Andrew Johnson to blame. 

From 1864 to 1868, by a succession of elections, with wide publicity 
on both sides, and unusually full discussion, national public opinion 
had come to these decisions by a large majority. 

1. The emancipated slave must be protected because he had helped 
save the Union which slavery had disrupted. 

2. The first protection for the slave was a legal status of freedom. 
This the South opposed in the fifteen former slave states, including 
the Border States. Four flatly refused to accept the Thirteenth Amend- 
ment. Three others accepted but only on condition that freedom should 
not imply full civil and political rights. Eight states accepted the Thir- 
teenth Amendment, but five of these and the three which accepted on 
condition, acted under pressure from Johnson, and their action ex- 
pressed the opinion of a minority of the former voting population, 
and for this reason these states feared to refer their action to popular 

3. A legal status of freedom without actual civil rights would mean 
almost nothing. The answer of the South to a proposal of civil rights 
was the Black Codes, which established a new status of slavery with 
a modified slave trade. 

4. The Freedmen's Bureau and the Civil Rights Bill represented an 
attempt at Federal intervention to enforce freedom by Federal law. 


The South bitterly opposed these attempts on the part of the national 
government and declared with Johnson that such attempts were un- 

5. To set this point at rest, the Fourteenth Amendment was pro- 
posed which made Negroes citizens, guaranteed them civil rights by 
national law, and political rights, if they were counted as a basis of 
representation in Congress. The South promptly rejected this overture 
unanimously, except in Tennessee, and there the majority of white 
voters had to be disfranchised before the acceptance was carried 

But behind all this, and explaining this interest in the Negro on 
the part of most Northerners, was a growing conviction that an arro- 
gant South was returning to Congress with increased political power; 
that its leaders were essentially the same men who had disrupted the 
Union and precipitated a costly and bloody war; that there was no 
reason to suppose that these men had changed their convictions in the 
slightest or surrendered for a moment their determination to dominate 
the country, and fight monopoly in industry with monopoly in agricul- 

In the face of their fatal failure, Southerners were demanding in- 
creased political power, and that political power could and in all prob- 
ability would be used for everything disadvantageous to the majority 
of the nation: it would be used against the spread of democratic ideals; 
it would be used for further increasing the political power of the 
South; it would be used against industry, property, and capital as 
buttressed by the tariff, the national banks, and the public debt. 

It was in vain that before, during and since the war, the North had 
offered to compromise with this unyielding bloc. There was only one 
defense against the power of the South and while that was revolution- 
ary and hitherto undreamed of, it was the only way, and it could 
not be stopped by the stubbornness of one narrow-minded man. That 
was Negro suffrage. 

Senator Sherman of Ohio said March 11, 1867: "A year ago I was 
not in favor of extending enforced Negro suffrage upon the South- 
ern states." 3 But the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment led him 
to give his support. 

There was evidently an understanding among the Republican Sen- 
ators and Representatives that if the legislatures of the Southern states 
organized under Johnson's scheme of Reconstruction accepted the 
Fourteenth Amendment and thus would say that either they would 
allow the Negro to vote or, in case they did not allow him, would 
forego representation based upon his numbers; then these states would 
be recognized and admitted to Congress. This was more than fair to 


the South. Charles Sumner to be sure would not consent to it and 
Stevens did not like it; but the industrial North was willing to throw 
the Negro over on these terms. 4 

However, with the exception of Tennessee, the Southern states re- 
jected the Fourteenth Amendment almost unanimously and insisted 
upon the Black Codes, and accompanied their demand by widespread 

Meantime in minor measures the sentiment for Negro suffrage was 
seen to be crystallizing. Colorado had sought admission in 1866 and 
had less than 100 Negroes, Sumner opposed the application because 
of the small population and chiefly because the suffrage was confined 
to white males. He spoke March 12 and 13, April 17, 19 and 24 on the 
subject. The bill passed the Senate despite Sumner. In the House, 
the attempt to strike out the word "white" as a qualification for voters 
was defeated. The President vetoed the bill on account of insufficient 

Next session, Sumner's amendment prevailed, but the President 
again vetoed the bill. Sumner made at the close of the session an un- 
successful attempt to make the same condition in the bill to admit 
Nebraska but failed; the President did not sign that bill. At the next 
session, the bill with Negro suffrage was passed over the President's 
veto. Sumner opposed the admission of Tennessee because Negroes 
were denied the right to vote. He failed to influence public sentiment 
but made his opponents apologetic. 5 

Sumner wrote to F. W. Bird, January 10, 1867: "I think you will be 
satisfied with the result on Nebraska and Colorado. The declaration 
that there shall be no exclusion from the elective franchise on account 
of color is not in the form which I preferred; but you have the declara- 
tion, which to my mind is a great gain. Is it not? And thus ends 
a long contest, where at first I was alone. Mr. Stewart of Nevada, 
who is sitting near me, says that 'it cannot be said now that the 
Republican party is not committed to Negro suffrage.' You have (1) 
The District Bill; (2) The Nebraska Bill; (3) The Colorado Bill; 
and (4) The Territorial Bill passed today, declaring that in the terri- 
tories there shall be no exclusion from the suffrage on account of 

In February, 1867, from the Committee of Fifteen, Stevens pre- 
sented the leading Reconstruction measure. This measure declared 
that life and property were not safe in the former Confederate states, 
and that good order had to be enforced until loyal governments could 
be legally established. It divided the Confederate states into five mili- 
tary divisions: one, Virginia; two, North and South Carolina; three, 
Georgia, Alabama and Florida; four, Mississippi and Arkansas; five, 


Louisiana and Texas. A general with sufficient forces was to be as- 
signed to each of these districts. These generals might use the United 
States civil courts to enforce the laws, but if these were not effective, 
they might govern through military commissions. The sentences of 
commissions must be approved by the commanding officers. United 
States courts should issue no writs of habeas corpus against the acts 
of these commissions. 

This bill established martial law, after the President had declared 
the war was ended. It put the appointing of the district military masters 
in the hands of the General of the Army instead of the President, 
and suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Congress hesitated at these 
thorough-going terms. Blaine suggested an Amendment which would 
provide a way of escape from martial rule by promising admission 
when a state adopted the Fourteenth Amendment and provided for 
Negro suffrage. Stevens refused to accept this and the bill was passed 
February 13. 

The Senate began to consider the bill February 15, and stayed in 
session until three o'clock in the morning. Resort was had to a party 
caucus, the Republican Senators meeting at 11 a.m., February 16. Sher- 
man, Sumner, Fessenden and four others were put on a sub-committee 
to revise the House bill, and remained in session a greater part of the 
afternoon. The bill was changed so as to restore the appointment of 
heads of the military districts, and adopt the Blaine amendment. The 
House had already passed Eliot's bill admitting Louisiana with Negro 
suffrage and Sumner wished that taken as a model. Sumner asked for 
Negro suffrage but only one of his committee supported him. At 5 
p.m. the caucus met and Sumner renewed his proposition, excluding 
discrimination as to race and color for the basis of suffrage. It was car- 
ried in the caucus, 15 to 13 or 14. This action committed the Republic- 
ans to the requirement of suffrage irrespective of race or color in the 
election of delegates to the Reconstruction conventions, and as the 
basis of suffrage for the constitutions of the rebel states. Senator Wil- 
son of Massachusetts said that "then and there in that small room, 
in that caucus, was decided the greatest pending question of the 
North American continent." 6 It was accepted by the caucus, although 
Fessenden was greatly displeased. He left the caucus and sought to 
defeat it by personal appeals. This led to an acrimonious debate in 
Congress, February 19, but the bill passed after a night's session at 
6:22 Sunday morning, February 17. 

Congress had a difficult time passing this Reconstruction bill. The 
House rejected the Senate bill and time was flying. Finally agreement 
was reached February 20 and Congress expired by limitation on 
March 4. The essential parts of the bill on Negro suffrage remained. 


The President by taking the full time allowed by law in returning 
his veto would leave only two days for Congress to pass the bill over 
his veto. Johnson and Seward immediately saw this and the veto was 
held up to the last moment, reaching the House on the afternoon of 
March 2. The President said that the bill placed the people of ten 
states under the complete domination of military rulers; these 
states had made provisions for the preservation of order, yet it was 
proposed to put them under military law; "the Negroes have not 
asked for the privilege of voting, and the vast majority of them have 
no idea of what it means"; we carried on a four years' war to punish 
the "crime of defying a constitution; if we now ourselves defy the 
constitution we prove that they were in fact fighting for Negro liberty." 

Stevens demanded immediate consideration of the veto but allowed 
jihort statements from Democratic members who declared this bill a 
death knell of republican liberty. 

One opponent declared that the bill should not pass unless he was 
"overpowered from physical exhaustion, or restrained by the rules of 
the House." Stevens, in closing the debate, said that he had listened 
to the gentlemen, because he appreciated "the melancholy feelings 
with which they are approaching this funeral of the nation," but as 
he desired the passage of the bill he asked Mr. Blaine to move a sus- 
pension of the rules. Mr. Blaine accordingly made the motion, and 
after an ineffectual attempt at filibustering, the bill was passed over the 
veto by a vote of 135 yeas to 48 nays. The Senate speedily took similar 
action, and the Reconstruction bill became a law. 

As finally passed, the bill set up the five districts, declaring that no 
adequate protection for life and property existed there. The President 
instead of the General of the Army was to assign an army officer to 
each of these districts. These commanders might rule by martial law, 
but sentence of death had to be approved by the President. To escape 
from this regime, there must be universal suffrage without regard to 
race or color, and the framing of a state constitution with a conven- 
tion composed of delegates not disqualified by participation in rebel- 
lion. The constitution so adopted must provide for universal suffrage, 
and this constitution must be ratified by a majority of the voters. The 
constitution must also be approved by Congress. The state could not 
be admitted until the Fourteenth Amendment had been approved by 
three-fourths of the states of the United States. Thus Congress avoided 
making the admission of the states conditional upon their individual 
acceptance of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Still Andrew Johnson was not beaten; as commander-in-chief of 
the army he could execute the Reconstruction legislation and he could 
throw its interpretation into the courts with a good chance of favor- 


able decision; just as the faltering attempt of Congress to give the 
Negroes land was at last utterly nullified by Johnson's edicts of resto- 
ration, so there was equal chance to frustrate Congress in restoring 
states' functions. 

Congress tried to tie Johnson's hands with the Tenure of Office Bill. 
It was introduced in December, 1866. The Constitution gave the Presi- 
dent no express power to dismiss persons from office. But custom 
and logic had allowed it. The Republicans feared that by dismissal 
from office Johnson would gain control of the entire executive division 
of the government at a time of crisis. The bill proposed that all officers 
appointed with the consent of the Senate could be removed only with 
the consent of the Senate, except in the case of cabinet officers. The 
House insisted on including cabinet officers and finally the bill was 
passed providing that cabinet officers should hold their offices during 
the term of the President by whom they were appointed and one 
month thereafter; during that time they could be removed only with 
the consent of the Senate. This measure went to the President on the 
20th of February, together with the Reconstruction bill, and was 
vetoed March 2. The veto argued, from statutes and uniform practice, 
that Congress had no power to force the President to retain in office 
against his judgment subordinates whom he had appointed. 

Johnson said with curious logic: "Whenever administration fails, 
or seems to fail, in securing any of the great ends for which republican 
government is established, the proper course seems to be to renew 
the original spirit and forms of the Constitution itself." Who was to 
be the judge of the "original spirit" — Andrew Johnson or the Con- 
gress? Which was to yield? Congress must yield to one stubborn, 
narrow-minded man or it was forced by the necessity of controlling 
the Executive, to adopt this revolutionary measure. 

Sumner said in December, 1866: 

"It is possible that the President may be impeached. If we go for- 
ward and supersede the sham governments set up in the rebel states, 
we encounter the appointing power of the President, who would put 
in office men who sympathize with him. It is this consideration which 
makes ardent representatives say that he must be removed. Should this 
be attempted, a new question will be presented." T 

Through fear of Johnson's actions, the 40th Congress assembled in 
special session immediately after adjournment of the 39th, so that 
Congress was practically in continuous session and there was no inter- 
regnum during which Johnson could exercise his uncurbed power. 

The new Congress immediately passed a supplementary Reconstruc- 
tion bill to implement the main measure. This bill laid down a plan 
of registration for all male citizens, twenty-one years of age and over, 


who could take the oath of loyalty, and made it the duty of the com- 
manding generals to order elections and choose delegates for constitu- 
tional conventions. If the voters favored such conventions, constitutions 
were to be formed and if adopted transmitted to Congress. The whole 
machinery of election was placed in the hands of the commanding 

The veto of this supplemental bill came immediately. The President 
in effect declared that the rise of the masses of black labor to political 
power was "an untried experiment" which "threatened" the whites 
with "even worse wrongs" than disfranchisement for attempted re- 
bellion, and made "their condition the most deplorable to which any 
people can be reduced." And this from the life-long man of the people 
and champion of the rights of the poor! 

It was bad enough when Johnson confined himself to speeches, as 
at Antietam, but when he came to action, Congress was further 
aroused. First, June 20, he issued liberal instructions concerning the 
loyal oath and the duty of commanding generals. He decided on advice 
of his Attorney General, Stanbery, that those taking the oath of loyalty 
were judges of their own honesty and could not be questioned by the 
Board of Registration; that actual disfranchisement for rebellion could 
only be made valid by law or court decision. Disloyal sentiments alone 
did not involve disfranchisement. 

Moreover, in appointing generals, Johnson evidently proposed to 
appoint, as far as possible, generals who were sympathetic with the 
South. In July he removed Sheridan from Louisiana and Texas and 
appointed first General Thomas, a Virginia Democrat, in his place, 
and finally General Hancock, a loyal follower of Johnson. The removal 
of Sheridan caused great excitement. The Loyal Legion held a great 
meeting asking for the immediate summoning of Congress and the 
deposition of the President. He replaced General Sickles in the Caro- 
linas with General Canby. Sheridan and Sickles were given posts in 
the North. 

These instructions were published June 20 and Congress replied by 
the Act of July 19, 1867. This act specifically included Virginia, North 
Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas in the states to be reconstructed; it 
provided that all the so-called governments in the South should be sub- 
ject to the orders of the District Commanders and the General of the 
army and not of the President. The bill made the Boards of Registration 
judges of fact in regard to persons seeking to take the oath of loyalty 
and it extended the time limit for registration of voters. 

The bill passed the Houses July 13, and was vetoed July 19. John- 
son protested against the attempt of the Federal Government to carry 
on state governments, and especially against the invasion of the con- 


stitutional powers of the President. His words were bitter: "Whilst I 
hold the chief executive authority of the United States, whilst the 
obligation rests upon me to see that all the laws are faithfully executed, 
I can never willingly surrender that trust or the powers given for its 
execution. I can never give my assent to be made responsible for the 
faithful execution of laws, and at the same time surrender that trust 
and the powers which accompany it to any other executive officer, 
high or low, or to any number of executive officers." The bill was 
passed over the veto by both Houses by overwhelming majorities, 
and talk of impeachment started anew. 

The discussion which has raged round the Reconstruction legisla- 
tion is of the same metaphysical stripe characterizing all fetich-worship 
of the Constitution. If one means by "constitutional" something pro- 
vided for in that instrument or foreseen by its authors or reasonably 
implicit in its words, then the Reconstruction Acts were undoubtedly 
unconstitutional; and so, for that matter, was the Civil War. In fact, 
the main measures of government during 1861-1870 were "unconstitu- 
tional." The only action possibly contemplated by the authors of the 
Constitution was secession; that action, the constitutional fathers feared 
and deprecated, but their instrument did not forbid it and distinctly 
implied the legality of a state withdrawing from the "more perfect 

Certainly no one could argue that the founders contemplated civil 
war to preserve the Union or that the Constitution was a pro-slavery 
document. Yet, unconstitutionally, the South made it a pro-slavery 
document and unconstitutionally the North prevented the destruction 
of the Union on account of slavery; and after the war revolutionary 
measures rebuilt what revolution had disrupted, and formed a new 
United States on a basis broader than the old Constitution and dif- 
ferent from its original conception. 

And why not? No more idiotic program could be laid down than 
to require a people to follow a written rule of government 90 years 
old, if that rule had been definitely broken in order to preserve the 
unity of the government and to destroy an economic anachronism. 
In such a crisis legalists may insist that consistency with precedent 
is more important than firm and far-sighted rebuilding. But mani- 
festly, it is not. Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consist- 
ency are not more important than right, justice and plain common- 
sense. Through the cobwebs of such political subtlety, Stevens crashed 
and said that military rule must continue in the South until order 
was restored, democracy established, and the political power built on 
slavery smashed. Further than this, both he and Sumner knew that 
land and education for black and white labor was necessary. 


On the first day of the second session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, 
Sumner was on hand with his bill for establishing universal suffrage 
in the District of Columbia. He had accepted a place on the Commit- 
tee of the District of Columbia, in addition to his other duties, to 
secure Negro suffrage. The Committee reported a bill in December, 
1866. Reading and writing as a qualification was moved as an amend- 
ment but was rejected by a vote of 15-19. Sumner voted "No." The 
bill did not reach a final vote but came up again December 10, 1867, 
when it passed after four days' debate by a vote of 32-13. The next 
day it passed the House, and went to the President. 

Johnson and Seward, in the veto, kept hammering at the old thesis. 
Northern states will not allow Negro suffrage to be forced upon 
them against their will. The Negro population of the District has 
recently been greatly increased by migration. Their rights can be 
protected in the District without the right of suffrage, just as much 
as in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, which refuse Negroes the right 
to vote. Because of slavery, the Negro is not as well fitted to vote as 
the intelligent foreigner. And yet five years' residence and a knowledge 
of our government are required of the latter. 

The bill was re-passed over the President's veto, January 7, and 
after it came the first proposal to impeach the President. "A great step 
along the path to universal suffrage without color distinctions has 
just been taken in the House of Representatives, in its session of the 
1 8th. The bill giving the right to vote to the blacks in the District of 
Columbia passed with a majority of 114 to 54. An anxious crowd, 
of whites and blacks mixed, filled the galleries of the House and all 
the approaches to the Capitol, and the passage of the bill was hailed 
with a great outburst of frenzied applause." 8 

Three days after the 40th Congress opened, Sumner offered a series 
of resolutions to provide homes and schools for freedmen. This sup- 
plemented the Freedmen's Bureau law and provided a permanent 
policy of national aid to education and economic redress of the rob- 
bery of slavery. The resolutions did not come to a vote; Sumner then 
tried to amend the Reconstruction Acts of March 22 and July 19 by 
provisions for free schools in the South without discrimination as to 
race. A tie vote defeated this effort, although a majority of the Re- 
publicans stood by him. He tried again and failed July 11 and July 13. 
"His disappointment at his failure in 1867 to secure schools and homes 
for the freedmen was so keen that he left the Senate chamber, and 
when he reached his house, his grief found vent in tears." 9 

Charles Sumner, frustrated in these demands, continued to direct 
the line of attack which he had initiated during the Civil War. He 
had in mind relief for free Negroes in the North as well as freedmen 


in the South, and he was determined that petty race prejudice in the 
North should not escape attention because of the fight against slavery 
and its aftermath in the South. 

Early in the spring of 1867, March 11, Stevens introduced a set of 
resolutions for the enforcement of the Confiscation Act of July 17, 
1862, with preamble as follows: "Whereas it is due to justice, as an 
example to future times, that some proper pain should be inflicted 
on the people who constituted the 'Confederate States of America,' 
both because they declared an unjust war against the United States 
for the purpose of destroying republican liberty and permanently 
establishing slavery, as well as for the cruel and barbarous manner in 
which they conducted said war, in violation of all rules of civilized 
warfare, and also to compel them to make compensation for the dam- 
age and expense caused by said war, therefore: Be it enacted that all 
public lands belonging to the ten states that formed the so-called 
'Confederate States of America,' shall be forfeited by said states and 
become vested forthwith in the United States." The measure further 
provided as follows: "Section 2, that the President should proceed at 
once to condemn the property forfeited under the aforesaid Act of 
July 17, 1862; section 3, that a commission of appraisers be appointed 
to appraise said property; section 4, that the land so seized and con- 
demned should be distributed among the slaves who had been made 
free by the war and constitutional amendments, and who were resid- 
ing on said land on the 4th of March, 1861, or since: to each head of a 
family 40 acres; to each adult male whether head of a family or not, 
40 acres; to each widow, head of a family, 40 acres; to be held by 
them in fee simple, but to be inalienable for ten years after they should 
become so seized thereof. Section 5 provided for the raising of the sum 
of fifty dollars for each homesteader, to be used for the erection of a 
building on his homestead; and that the further sum of five hundred 
million dollars be raised for the purpose of pensioning the veterans 
of the Union army." The bill contained several other sections dealing 
with the subject in connection with the main features as above set 

Stevens called up this measure for consideration by the House on 
March 19, when he made one of his characteristic speeches, brilliant 
and pungent; age seems never to have had any effect upon his mental 
vigor nor any tendency to modify his sharp invectives. Said he: "I 
am about to discuss the question of pain of belligerent traitors. . . . 
The pain of traitors has been wholly ignored by a treacherous execu- 
tive and a sluggish Congress. ... I wish to make an issue before the 
American people and see whether they will sanction the perfect 
impunity of a murderous belligerent and consent that loyal men of 


this nation who have been despoiled of their property shall remain 
without remuneration, either by rebel property or the property of the 
nation. To this issue, I desire to devote the small remainder of my 
life. . . . No committee or party is responsible for this bill. Whatever 
merit it possesses is due to Andrew Johnson and myself." 

Andrew Johnson did not falter and began to pin his faith on the 
fall elections of 1867. On September 7, 1867, Johnson extended full 
pardon to Confederates. His former proclamation, according to the 
Tribune, had "left about one hundred thousand citizens outside the 
amnesty, but this one leaves out one or two thousand." 

Undoubtedly at this time Johnson was being urged toward stronger 
counter-revolutionary measures. He entertained the idea of order- 
ing the military governors of the five Southern districts to enroll as 
voters the former Confederates whom he had included in his last 
Proclamation of Amnesty. Clemenceau said that when some of his 
Southern friends called on him, he admitted frankly that only the 
fear of being deposed prevented him from acting and he advised 
them to take the matter into court. 

To court the South flew. Johnson's provisional governor of Missis- 
sippi tried in the name of his state to enjoin the President from execut- 
ing the Reconstruction laws. The Supreme Court found in April, 
1867, that its interference would be improper. Thereupon Governor 
Jackson of Georgia sought to enjoin the Secretary of War, the Gen- 
eral of the Army, and the District Commander in Georgia; but the 
court decided it had no jurisdiction. A second time Georgia went 
to the Supreme Court and failed. Finally, late in 1867, W. H. McCardle 
of Mississippi, arrested by military authority under the Reconstruction 
acts, appealed from the Circuit to the Supreme Court, but Congress 
over the President's veto repealed the statute which allowed such an 
appeal, and by this revolutionary procedure made good its supreme 
power in Reconstruction over court and President. 

Radical newspapers published in October a statement that the 
President had told certain friends in Tennessee that he would resist 
by force if Congress attempted to impeach him. Johnson denied that 
he had said anything of the sort, but Republicans made much of the 
fact that Johnson had ordered cannon furnished to Swann, Gover- 
nor of Maryland, who like Johnson had been elected by the Republic- 
ans and had gone over to the Democrats. Swann asked the govern- 
ment to furnish him with cannon. Johnson gave Stanton the order 
to deliver the weapons needed. Stanton flatly refused. When General 
Grant took his place as Secretary of War, the Governor of Maryland 
renewed his request, which was again granted by Johnson and again 
refused by Grant. Finally, Swann made up his mind to buy the 


cannon. Most of the officers serving in Swann's militia were former 

During the fall campaign of 1867, there was fear of panic in the 
air on account of the vast circulation of greenbacks and bank notes 
to the extent of a billion dollars. With money fluctuating in value, 
trade became a lottery. Higher protection was put on steel and woolen 
goods. But curiously enough, the Democrats in general avoided the 
tariff issue. They did not follow Johnson's attack on finance because 
they saw its inconsistency with the reaction of property in the South. 
Leaving the economic argument, they embraced with avidity race 
prejudice and concentrated their campaign on this. 

Clemenceau said, "The best point of attack for the Democrats is 
the Negroes. Any Democrat who did not manage to hint in his speech 
that the Negro is a degenerate gorilla, would be considered lacking 
in enthusiasm. The idea of giving political power to a lot of wild 
men, incapable of civilization, whose intelligence is no higher than 
that of the animal! That is the theme of all Democratic speeches." 10 
With this, of course, went fetich worship of the Constitution. 

Johnson looked forward with hope. October elections took place in 
Ohio and Pennsylvania and showed reaction toward the Democrats. 

In Ohio, R. B. Hayes, afterward president, ran against Allan G. 
Thurman, and Negro suffrage played a large part. Hayes denied 
the assertion that the government was a white man's government. 
"It is not the Government of any class or sect or nationality or 
race. ... It is not the Government of the native born or of the 
foreign born, of the rich man or of the poor man, of the white man 
or of the colored man — it is the Government of the freeman." The 
"monstrous inconsistency and injustice of excluding one-seventh of 
our population from all participation in a Government founded on 
the consent of the governed" was held to be impossible. There was no 
necessary antagonism between the two races which could not be 
broken down by justice and equality. 11 

Hayes won by less than 3,000 votes, as compared with a Republican 
majority of 42,000 in 1866. Also, at the same time, the voters rejected 
the Negro suffrage amendment by 38,000 votes, and elected a Demo- 
cratic legislature. There were, however, certain other elements. The 
Republicans had sought to disfranchise deserters from the army, and 
Ben Wade had aroused the bitter hostility of Southern elements in 
southern Ohio. 

Ohio expressed itself against the high tariff "to fill the pockets of 
Eastern monopolists," and in favor of agricultural labor, showing the 
peculiar contradiction in the minds of the voters. Johnson telegraphed 
Ohio: "Ohio has done its duty and done it in time. God bless Ohio." 


Pennsylvania lost nearly the whole of its Republican majority of thirty 
thousand. In New York cannon were kept firing for two days. 

Most of the state elections came in November, and showed some 
reaction toward the Democrats but not so great as in October. The 
Republicans won in Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, 
Minnesota, Missouri and Illinois, but were completely defeated in 
New York, New Jersey and Maryland. 

New Jersey refused to strike out the word "white" from the re- 
quirements for suffrage; in New York, the Republicans did not dare 
to submit to popular vote the proposal to drop the property discrimina- 
tion against Negro voters. Maryland adopted a new registry law which 
gave the vote to whites only. 

On the other hand, during 1867, Iowa and Dakota admitted Negroes 
to the ballot, and Minnesota in 1868. In this latter year Negroes were 
voting in all the New England states except Connecticut, in Iowa, 
Minnesota and Dakota — a total of 8 Northern states. The South and 
its friends had a right to charge that 8 other Northern states refused 
to enfranchise a class to which they were forcing the South to give 
the vote. 

In the third annual message of Andrew Johnson, December 3, 1867, 
all masking of the Negro problem is removed. He is no longer evasive 
as to the relation of the black worker to the white worker and his 
whole economic argument is drowned in race hate. There is no sug- 
gestion that Negro soldiers or Negro property owners or Negroes who 
can read and write should have any political rights. He bases his 
whole argument flatly on the inferiority of the Negro race. 

"It is the glory of white men," he proclaims magniloquently, "to 
know that they have had these qualities in sufficient measure to build 
upon this continent a great political fabric and to preserve its stability 
for more than ninety years, while in every other part of the world 
all similar experiments have failed. But if anything can be proved by 
known facts, if all reasoning upon evidence is not abandoned, it must 
be acknowledged that in the progress of nations, Negroes have shown 
less capacity for government than any other race of people. No inde- 
pendent government of any form has ever been successful in their 
hands. On the contrary, wherever they have been left to their own 
devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse into barbarism. 
In the Southern States, however, Congress has undertaken to confer 
upon them the privilege of the ballot. Just released from slavery, it 
may be doubted whether as a class they know more than their ancestors 
how to organize and regulate civil society. Indeed, it is admitted that 
the blacks of the South are not only regardless of the rights of prop- 
erty, but so utterly ignorant of public affairs that their voting can 


consist in nothing more than carrying a ballot to the place where they 
are directed to deposit it. 

"The great difference between the two races in physical, mental and 
moral characteristics will prevent an amalgamation or fusion of them 
together in one homogeneous mass. If the inferior obtains the ascend- 
ency over the other, it will govern with reference only to its own in- 
terests — for it will recognize no common interest — and create such 
a tyranny as this continent has never yet witnessed. Already the Ne- 
groes are influenced by promises of confiscation and plunder. They 
are taught to regard as an enemy every white man who has any re- 
spect for the rights of his own race. If this continues it must become 
worse and worse, until all order will be subverted, all industry cease, 
and the fertile fields of the South grow up into a wilderness. Of all 
the dangers which our nation has yet encountered, none are equal 
to those which must result from the success of the effort now mak- 
ing to Africanize the half of our country." 

It is easy to believe now that the idea that Andrew Johnson and the 
South planned a coup d'etat was fanciful. The point is that sane and 
thoughtful men at the time widely believed it. No matter how in- 
credible it may seem to us, we must remember that this was a genera- 
tion to which it had seemed incredible that the South should secede. 
They had seen the incredible happen at fearful cost. It might happen 
again. The Republicans, therefore, refused to be frightened by the 
elections of 1867. Carl Schurz said that "I think that I do not exag- 
gerate that an overwhelming majority of the loyal Union men, North 
and South, saw in President Johnson a traitor bent upon turning 
over the national government to the rebels again, and ardently wish- 
ing to see him utterly stripped of power, not so much for what he 
had done, but for what, as they thought, he was capable of doing 
and likely to do." 

Impeachment proceedings now hurried forward. They had begun 
in December, 1866. On February 28, 1867, the Committee on Judiciary 
had refused to recommend impeachment of the President but asked 
for further investigation. March 2, the Reconstruction Act passed, and 
March 7, impeachment was moved for the second time in the House. 
Johnson had notified the Senate of the suspension of Secretary Stanton 
in December, 1867. Early the next year, the Senate refused to concur, 
Grant gave up the office, and Stanton resumed his duties. Stanton was 
dismissed again in February, 1868, and the impeachment of Johnson 
was determined upon in March. 

The beginning of the attempt to impeach President Johnson was a 
memorable scene. Thaddeus Stevens made his speech February 16, 
1868. He was hopelessly broken in health, and a hushed and expectant 


audience listened to every word. He spoke with force and solemnity. 
"I doubt," said Charles Sumner, "if words were ever delivered to 
more effect." 12 He was a dying man and this was his last word. 

Who in 1867 represented the considered will of the people of the 
United States? Certainly not Andrew Johnson, backed by Northern 
copperheads and the supporters of a futile attempt at secession. Just 
as certainly two-thirds of the members of Congress, with the South 
excluded as it had been excluded for six terrible years, had a clear 
right to express the repeatedly registered popular will. 

The problem was a difficult one. When can a ruler rule in the 
United States? The nation by overwhelming majority had declared 
for union, for emancipation to preserve the Union, for no increase in 
the political power of the white South, and for Negro suffrage to 
prevent this increased political power and reward Negro loyalty. 

This clear will of the majority of the people, represented in Congress, 
was frustrated by a President who repeatedly refused to obey the 
plain manclate of the party which elected him. Johnson virtually de- 
clared Congress illegal because the South was unrepresented. Congress 
denied that a criminal could be his own judge. Who could settle this 
dispute? By the whole theory of party government, a President must 
be at least in general accord with his party. His utmost power should 
not go beyond a suspensory veto compelling a plebiscite. Yet no presi- 
dent in the history of the United States up to this time had used the 
veto power like Andrew Johnson to oppose the expressed will of the 
nation. In twenty-three cases, he opposed his will to the will of Con- 
gress, while Andrew Jackson, his closest competitor, made only eleven 
vetoes and pocket vetoes. Party responsibility in government was ab- 
solutely blocked at a time of crisis. Under any, even partial, theory 
of such responsibility, Johnson would have been compelled to resign; 
but the antiquated constitutional requirements of a system of laws 
built for another age and for entirely different circumstances were 
now being applied to unforeseen conditions. 

The Constitution made the removal of the President contingent upon 
his committing "high crimes and misdemeanors." Here then came 
a plain question of definition: was it a crime, in the judgment of 
the people of the United States in 1867, for a President to block the 
overwhelming will of a successful majority of voters during a period 
of nearly three years? Stevens and those who followed him said that 
it was. They did not all pretend that Johnson was personally a crim- 
inal with treasonable designs, although some believed even that; on 
the other hand it was clear even to many of Johnson's friends that 
he was "an unfit person to be President of the United States." 13 They 


all did assert that he had broken the rules by which responsible gov- 
ernment could be carried on. 

The trial started March 30, 1868, and ended May 6. Over two-thirds 
of the members of the United States House of Representatives, 35 
out of 54 Senators, and the great majority of the voters of the nation, 
outside the former slave states, agreed that Johnson should be removed 
from office. Whether they were right or wrong, the failure legally 
to convict Johnson has remained to frustrate responsible government 
in the United States ever since. But no President since Johnson has 
attempted indefinitely to rule in defiance of Congress. 

The leaders of abolition-democracy still pressed on. Sumner was 
especially active and destined for several more years of active work. 

Thaddeus Stevens was near death, but to the very end he fought on. 
He wished to ask Congress to declare by law that no state had the 
right to forbid citizens of the United States from taking part in the 
national elections. 

Thaddeus Stevens died August 11, 1868, three weeks after the rati- 
fication of the Fourteenth Amendment was announced, and in his last 
breath and even after death, stood true to his principles. "Two colored 
clergymen called, and asked leave to see Stevens and pray with him. 
He ordered them to be admitted; and when they had come to his 
bedside, he turned and held out his hand to one of them. They sang 
a hymn and prayed. ... It was then within ten minutes of midnight, 
and the end was to come before the beginning of the new day. He 
lay motionless for a few minutes, then opened his eyes, took one look, 
placidly closed them, and, without a struggle, the great commoner 
had ceased to breathe." 14 

Thaddeus Stevens was buried in a colored graveyard. Upon the 
monument there is the following inscription, prepared by himself: "I 
repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference 
for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race by charter 
rules, I have chosen this, that I might illustrate in my death the 
principles which I advocated through a long life, [the] Equality of 
Man before his Creator." 

As Charles Sumner said: "Already he takes his place among illustri- 
ous names, which are the common property of mankind. I see him 
now, as I have so often seen him during life. His venerable form 
moves slowly and with uncertain steps; but the gathered strength of 
years is in his countenance and the light of victory on his path. Poli- 
tician, calculator, time-server, stand aside! a hero statesman passes to 
his reward!" 15 

As a result of the legislation of the 39th and 40th Congresses, the 
United States in 1867 took a portentous forward step in democracy. 


For the mass of the nation, it was a step taken under compulsion of 
fear, without deep forethought and with a rather didactic following 
out of certain conventional principles which made universal suffrage 
seem natural and inevitable. To the South, it was the price of that dis- 
aster of slavery and war which spelled its history from 1830 to 1865; 
and it was the only price adequate to that fatal mistake. 

To those men who were guiding American industry toward a new 
and fateful path, the Southern experiment was simply a political move 
by which they silenced and held in check the tremendous political 
power built on slavery, which in many ways and for a generation 
had threatened the nation and checked its economic development. 

To a few far-seeing leaders of democracy this experiment appeared 
in its truer light. It was a test of the whole theory of American gov- 
ernment. It was a dictatorship backed by the military arm of the 
United States by which the governments of the Southern states were 
to be coerced into accepting a new form of administration, in which 
the freedmen and the poor whites were to hold the overwhelming 
balance of political power. As soon as political power was successfully 
delivered into the hands of these elements, the Federal government 
was to withdraw and full democracy ensue. 

The difficulty with this theory was the failure to realize that such 
dictatorship must last long enough really to put the mass of workers 
in power; that this would be in fact a dictatorship of the proletariat 
which must endure until the proletariat or at least a leading united 
group, with clear objects and effective method, had education and ex- 
perience and had taken firm control of the economic organization of 
the South. Unfortunately, the power set to begin this dictatorship was 
the military arm of a government which more and more was falling 
into the hands of organized wealth, and of wealth organized on a 
scale never before seen in modern civilization. 

The new organization of Northern wealth was not comparable to 
the petty bourgeoisie which seized power after the overthrow of Euro- 
pean feudalism. It was a new rule of associated and federated mon- 
archs of industry and finance wielding a vaster and more despotic 
power than European kings and nobles ever held. It was destined to 
subdue not simply Southern agrarianism but even individual wealth 
and brains in the North which were creating a new petty bourgeoisie 
of small merchants and skilled artisans. 

It was inconceivable, therefore, that the masters of Northern indus- 
try through their growing control of American government, were 
going to allow the laborers of the South any more real control of 
wealth and industry than was necessary to curb the political power of 
the planters and their successors. As soon as the Southern landholders 


and merchants yielded to the Northern demands of a plutocracy, at 
that moment the military dictatorship should be withdrawn and a 
dictatorship of capital allowed unhampered sway. 

We see this more clearly today than the nation of 1868, or any of its 
leaders, could possibly envisage it; but even then, Northern industry 
knew that universal suffrage in the South, in the hands of Negroes just 
freed from slavery, and of white people still enslaved by poverty, could 
not stand against organized industry. They promptly calculated that 
the same method of controlling the labor vote would come in vogue 
in the South as they were already using in the North, and that the 
industry which used these methods must in the meantime cooperate 
with Northern industry; that it could not move the foundation stones 
upon which Northern industry was consolidating its power; that is, 
the tariff, the money system, the debt, and national in place of state 
control of industry. This would seem to be what the masters of ex- 
ploitation were counting upon and it certainly came true in the bar- 
gain of 1876. 

Thus by singular coincidence and for a moment, for the few years 
of an eternal second in a cycle of a thousand years, the orbits of two 
widely and utterly dissimilar economic systems coincided and the re- 
sult was a revolution so vast and portentous that few minds ever fully 
conceived it; for the systems were these: first, that of a democracy 
which should by universal suffrage establish a dictatorship of the pro- 
letariat ending in industrial democracy; and the other, a system by 
which a little knot of masterful men would so organize capitalism as 
to bring under their control the natural resources, wealth and indus- 
try of a vast and rich country and through that, of the world. For a 
second, for a pulse of time, these orbits crossed and coincided, but 
their central suns were a thousand light-years apart, even though the 
blind and ignorant fury of the South and the complacent Philistinism 
of the North saw them as one. 

Reconstruction was an economic revolution on a mighty scale and 
with worldrwide reverberation. Reconstruction was not simply a fight 
between the white and black races in the South or between master 
and ex-slave. It was much more subtle; it involved more than this. 
There have been repeated and continued attempts to paint this era as 
an interlude of petty politics or nightmare of race hate instead of view- 
ing it slowly and broadly as a tremendous series of efforts to earn a 
living in new and untried ways, to achieve economic security and to 
restore fatal losses of capital and investment. It was a vast labor move- 
ment of ignorant, earnest, and bewildered black men whose faces had 
been ground in the mud by their three awful centuries of degradation 
and who now staggered forward blindly in blood and tears amid petty 


division, hate and hurt, and surrounded by every disaster of war and 
industrial upheaval. Reconstruction was a vast labor movement of 
ignorant, muddled and bewildered white men who had been disin- 
herited of land and labor and fought a long battle with sheer sub- 
sistence, hanging on the edge of poverty, eating clay and chasing slaves 
and now lurching up to manhood. Reconstruction was the turn of 
white Northern migration southward to new and sudden economic 
opportunity which followed the disaster and dislocation of war, and an 
attempt to organize capital and labor on a new pattern and build a 
new economy. Finally Reconstruction was a desperate effort of a dis- 
lodged, maimed, impoverished and ruined oligarchy and monopoly to 
restore an anachronism in economic organization by force, fraud and 
slander, in defiance of law and order, and in the face of a great labor 
movement of white and black, and in bitter strife with a new capital- 
ism and a new political framework. 

All these contending and antagonistic groups spoke different and 
unknown tongues; to the Negro "Freedom" was God; to the poor 
white "Freedom" was nothing — he had more than he had use for; to 
the planter "Freedom" for the poor was laziness and for the rich, con- 
trol of the poor worker; for the Northern business man "Freedom" 
was opportunity to get rich. 

Yet, with interpretation, agreement was possible here; North and 
South agreed that laborers must produce profit; the poor white and 
the Negro wanted to get the profit arising from the laborers' toil and 
not to divide it with the employers and landowners. When Northern 
and Southern employers agreed that profit was most important and 
the method of getting it second, the path to understanding was clear. 
When white laborers were convinced that the degradation of Negro 
labor was more fundamental than the uplift of white labor, the end 
was in sight. 

Not only did all those factors becloud this extraordinary series of 
movements so that the truth of the matter in itself was baffling to ob- 
servers and interpreters — but over all has spread, to this day, a cloud of 
lying and slander which leaves historians and philosophers aghast and 
has resulted in a current theory of interpretation which pictures all 
participants as scoundrels, idiots and heroes — a combination humanly 
improbable and demonstrably untrue. 

One cannot study Reconstruction without first frankly facing the 
facts of universal lying; of deliberate and unbounded attempts to prove 
a case and win a dispute and preserve economic mastery and political 
domination by besmirching the character, motives, and commonsense, 
of every single person who dared disagree with the dominant philos- 
ophy of the white South. 


The campaign of slander against "carpetbaggers" rose to a climax 
which included every Northern person who defended the Negro, and 
every Northern person in the South who was connected with the 
army or Freedmen's Bureau or with the institutions of learning, or 
who admitted the right of the Negro to vote or defended him in any 
way. It was the general, almost universal, belief that practically with- 
out exception these people were liars, jailbirds, criminals and thieves, 
and the hatred of them rose to a crescendo of curses and filth. Later, 
this universal attack upon the carpetbaggers was modified considerably, 
and it was admitted that there were among them some decent and 
high-minded men, although most of them still were regarded as selfish 
stealers of public funds. 

On the other hand, so far as the Negro was concerned, almost no 
exceptions were admitted. It was easier to traduce him because every- 
one was ready to believe the worst and no reply was, for the moment, 
listened to. There was not a single great black leader of Reconstruc- 
tion against whom almost unprintable allegations were not repeatedly 
and definitely made without any attempt to investigate the reliability 
of sources of information. 

For the first time in national history interstate migration became a 
crime. Hundreds of thousands of Southerners had gone North and 
West and had been welcomed and integrated into the various states 
despite their divergent ideas and alien heredity. But when there came 
a comparatively small number of Northerners into the South, they 
were reviled unless they conformed absolutely in thought and action 
with a dead past. 

The Northern whites were of many classes: former soldiers and 
officers, lingering in the South in connection with the army or the 
Freedmen's Bureau, or as investors and farmers. They were reenforced 
by an army of men who came South with small capital and in many 
cases succeeded in making their fortune. Most of these had no especial 
love for the Negroes. They had come into a white man's war, and now 
that the Negro was free, they were perfectly free to use him and to 
organize his industrial and political power for their own advantage. 

Many of these were agents for capital and went down from the 
North with something of the psychology of modern investment in 
conquered or colonial territory: that is, they brought the capital; they 
invested it; they remained in charge to oversee the profits; and they 
acquired political power in order to protect these profits. 

On the other hand, there were teachers who came down from the 
North, army chaplains, social workers and others, who whole-heartedly 
went into the new democracy to the limit. Extraordinary persons stood 
forth in this role, like General Fisk and Erastus Cravath at Nashville, 


Edmund Ware at Atlanta, General Armstrong at Hampton, and 
dozens of others. They were crusaders in a great cause and meticu- 
lously honest. Naturally, their numbers were comparatively small. 
They reached primarily students, teachers and preachers among the 
Negroes and only incidentally the class of field hands. 

It was a battle between oligarchy whose wealth and power had been 
based on land and slaves on the one hand; and on the other, oligarchy 
built on machines and hired labor. The newly organized industry of 
the North was not only triumphant in the North but began pressing 
in upon the South; its advance guard was represented by those small 
Northern capitalists and officeholders who sought to make quick 
money in raising cotton and taking advantage of the low-priced labor 
and high cotton prices due to the war famine. 

The labor on the market, instead of being owned like the slaves or 
excluded from competition like the poor whites, suddenly found itself 
bid for and offered not only money wages, but political power and 
social status. The bidders had no realization at first how high their 
labor bids were in Southern custom; they were offering something 
below the current price of labor in all civilized lands; the Northern 
United States, England, France, most of Germany and parts of Italy 
were giving labor some voice in governing and a money wage con- 

To the plantation planters such a wage contract was economic heresy 
and social revolution. It was blasphemy and eternal damnation to 
them, and they fought by every conceivable weapon — political power, 
social influence, murder, assassination and systematic lying. 

The mass of poor whites were in an anomalous position. Those of 
them who were intelligent or had during slavery accumulated any 
capital or achieved any position, had always attached themselves in 
sympathy and interest to the planter class. This meant that the mass 
of ignorant poor white labor had practically no intelligent leadership. 
Only here and there were there men, like Hinton Helper, who were 
actual leaders of the poor whites against the planters. The poor white 
was in a quandary with regard to emancipation. He had viewed slav- 
ery as the cause of his own degradation, but he now viewed the free 
Negro as a threat to his very existence. Suppose that freedom for the 
Negro meant that Negroes might rise to be landholders, planters and 
employers ? The poor whites thus might lose the last shred of respecta- 
bility. They had been used to seeing certain classes of the black slaves 
above them in economic prosperity and social power. But after all, 
they were still Negroes and slaves. Now that freedom had come, poor 
whites were faced by the dilemma of recognizing the Negroes as 


equals or of bending every effort to still keep them beneath the white 
mass in income and social power. 

Here and there certain leaders appeared among the planters, among 
the more intelligent of the poor whites, and even among the masses, 
who looked toward political combination and economic alliance with 
the Negro. Such persons, the Southerners called "scalawags," but they 
were in fact that part of the white South who saw a vision of democ- 
racy across racial lines, and who were willing to build up a labor party 
in opposition to capitalists and landholders. They were, therefore, 
especially to be feared and were endlessly reviled. They were forced 
into certain extreme positions as compared with the carpetbagger and 
the planter. Men like Hunnicutt of Virginia asked not only political 
rights, but full social equality for the Negroes, and taunted planters 
and the carpetbaggers when they did not dare advocate this. 

When Andrew Johnson said in his veto of the Reconstruction bill, 
March 2, 1867: "The Negroes have not asked for the privilege of vot- 
ing; the vast majority of them have no idea what it means," he was 
exaggerating. Negroes had certainly voted, not only in the North but 
in South Carolina in the eighteenth century and in North Carolina, 
Louisiana and Tennessee in the nineteenth. They had asked to vote in 
the South repeatedly since Emancipation. The difference that now 
came was that an indefinitely larger number of Negroes than ever 
before was enfranchised suddenly, and 99% of them belonged to the 
laboring class, whereas by law the Negroes who voted in the early 
history of the country were for the most part property holders, and 
prospective if not actual constituents of a petty bourgeoisie. 

When freedom came, this mass of Negro labor was not without in- 
telligent leadership, and a leadership which because of former race 
prejudice and the present Color Line, could not be divorced from the 
laboring mass, as had been the case with the poor whites. The group 
of intelligent, free Negroes in Washington, Richmond, Charleston 
and especially New Orleans, had accumulated some wealth and some 
knowledge of group cooperation and initiative. Almost without ex- 
ception, they accepted the new responsibility of leading the emanci- 
pated slaves, unselfishly and effectively. Free Negroes from the North, 
most of whom had been born in the South and knew conditions, came 
back in considerable numbers during Reconstruction, and took their 
place as leaders. The result was that the Negroes were not, as they are 
sometimes painted, simply a mass of densely ignorant toilers. The 
rank and file of black labor had a notable leadership of intelligence 
during Reconstruction times. 

It was, however, a leadership which was not at all clear in its eco- 
nomic thought. On the whole, it believed in the accumulation of 


wealth and the exploitation of labor as the normal method of eco- 
nomic development. But it also believed in the right to vote as the 
basis and defense of economic life, and gradually but surely it was 
forced by the demand of the mass of Negro laborers to face the prob- 
lem of land. Thus the Negro leaders gradually but certainly turned 
toward emphasis on economic emancipation. They wanted the Negro 
to have the right to work at a decent rate of wages, and they expected 
that the right to vote would come when he had sufficient education 
and perhaps a certain minimum of property to deserve it. It was this 
among other things that was the cause of the tremendous push toward 
education which the Negroes exhibited. 

On the other hand, their desire for economic enfranchisement, for 
real abolition of slavery, had been affronted by the Black Codes. They 
were scared and hampered in the very beginning of their freedom by 
these enactments and by the way in which these and other laws were 

The government replied before the death of Abraham Lincoln with 
government guardianship in the shape of the Freedmen's Bureau. This 
bureau never had a real chance to organize and function properly. It 
was hastily organized. It had to use the persons at hand and on the 
ground largely for its personnel. It had at first no government appro- 
priations and in the end only limited appropriations and it was always 
faced by the probability of quick dissolution. It was surrounded from 
the beginning by the spirit which enacted the Black Codes. Southerners 
were desperately opposed to it because it stood between them and the 
exploitation of labor toward which they were impelled by their losses 
and the high price of cotton. If they had been allowed to exploit and 
drive black labor after the war, many Southerners despite their losses 
could have partially recouped their fortunes. But here came an or- 
ganization which demanded money wages of employers who had no 
money, and demanded the modern treatment of labor from former 
slave drivers. 

Beside the Freedmen's Bureau and before it, there was the chance 
for the Negroes to seek the advice of their former masters and in 
many cases this was willingly and wisely given, particularly in the 
case of masters ready to assist a new economic regime; but it was 
hindered by several considerations. First, any new union between 
former masters and Negroes was rekindling the old enmity and 
jealousy of the poor whites against any combination of the white em- 
ployer and the black laborer which would again exclude the poor 
white. The planter, therefore, had to be careful of any open sympathy 
or cooperation with the black laborer. Already his ranks had been 
decimated by war and his social status threatened by poverty. Then, 


too, insofar as the black laborer was guided by the Freedmen's Bureau, 
by Northern philanthropy and by Northern capital, he brought upon 
himself the bitter enmity of the former master; so that on the whole, 
while there was considerable advice and help from the former master, 
in the long run it did not and could not amount to much. 

Then, too, we must remember that these former slaveholders did 
not believe that Negroes could advance in freedom. They knew, of 
course, that some could, but even if these could, how could white men 
and masters cooperate with them? The whole trend of teaching had 
been that this was utterly impossible. If Negroes succeeded and in- 
sofar as they did, it would lead straight to social equality and amal- 
gamation; and if they did not succeed it would lead to deterioration 
in culture and civilization. 

The real economic battle, then, lay finally in a series of attempted 
compromises between planters, carpetbaggers, scalawags, poor white 
laborers and Negroes. First, the planters moved toward the political 
control of Negroes to fix their economic control. This the poor whites 
had of course feared and their fears were voiced repeatedly by Andrew 
Johnson. Many people in the North looked upon this as a possible and 
threatening answer to the enfranchisement of the blacks. The com- 
bination was frustrated because the carpetbaggers offered the Negroes 
better terms; offered them the right to vote and to hold office and 
some economic freedom. When this economic freedom looked toward 
landholding and higher wages, it could be accomplished only at the 
expense of the employing class, and so far as Negro labor accepted, as 
it had to accept the offer of the carpetbaggers and scalawags, it alien- 
ated the planters, and not only that, but it frightened the poor whites. 

Here again, as in the case of slavery, there was a combination in 
which the poor whites seemed excluded, unless they made common 
cause with the blacks. This union of black and white labor never got 
a real start. First, because black leadership still tended toward the 
ideals of the petty bourgeois, and white leadership tended distinctly 
toward strengthening capitalism. The final move which rearranged all 
these combinations and led to the catastrophe of 1876, was a combina- 
tion of planters and poor whites in defiance of their economic interests; 
and with the use of lawless murder and open intimidation. It was a 
combination that could only have been stopped by government force; 
and the army which was the agent of the Federal Government was 
sustained in the South by the organized capital of the North. All that 
was necessary, then, was to satisfy Northern industry that the new 
combination in the South was essentially a combination which aimed 
at capitalistic exploitation on conventional terms. The result was the 
withdrawal of military support and the revolutionary suppression not 


only of Negro suffrage but of the economic development of Negro 
and white labor. 

It was not until after the period which this book treats that white 
labor in the South began to realize that they had lost a great oppor- 
tunity, that when they united to disfranchise the black laborer they 
had cut the voting power of the laboring class in two. White labor in 
the Populist movement of the eighties tried to realign the economic 
warfare in the South and bring workers of all colors into united op- 
position to the employer. But they found that the power which they 
had put in the hands of the employers in 1876 so dominated political 
life that free and honest expression of public will at the ballot-box was 
impossible in the South, even for white men. They realized that it 
was not simply the Negro who had been disfranchised in 1876, it was 
the white laborer as well. The South had since become one of the 
greatest centers for exploitation of labor in the world, and labor suf- 
fered not only in the South but throughout the country and the world 

Curious and contradictory has been the criticism and comment ac- 
companying this great controversy and revolution of 1 866-1 876. Floods 
of tears and sentiment have been expended on the suffering and 
disillusionment of the slave baron, while the equally great losses of 
Northern and Southern labor have been forgotten. And above all, 
the plight of the most helpless victims of the situation, the black 
freedmen, has been treated with callous and hardened judgments, 
cemented with hate. The Northern business man has justly been ac- 
cused of being motivated, during this period, chiefly by greed and 
profit. But the profit and greed of the slaveholder which caused the 
whole catastrophe, and of the planter who forced an unjust and still 
dangerous solution, has been sicklied o'er with sentiment. 

In all this, one sees the old snobbery of class judgment in new form 
— tears and sentiment for Marie Antoinette on the scaffold, but no 
sign of grief for the gutters of Paris and the fields of France, where 
the victims of exploitation and ignorance lay rotting in piles. 

The South, after the war, presented the greatest opportunity for a 
real national labor movement which the nation ever saw or is likely 
to see for many decades. Yet the labor movement, with but few ex- 
ceptions, never realized the situation. It never had the intelligence or 
knowledge, as a whole, to see in black slavery and Reconstruction, the 
kernel and meaning of the labor movement in the United States. 

After Lincoln's assassination, the General Council of the Interna- 
tional Workingmen's Association, under Karl Marx, sent an address 
to Andrew Johnson: 

"After a gigantic Civil War, which if we consider its colossal ex- 


tension and its vast scenes of action, seems in comparison with the 
Hundred Years' War and the Thirty Years' War and the Twenty- 
three Years' War of the Old World scarcely to have lasted ninety days, 
the task, Sir, devolves upon you to uproot by law what the sword has 
felled, and to preside over the more difficult work of political recon- 
struction and social regeneration. The profound consciousness of your 
great mission will preserve you from all weakness in the execution of 
your stern duties. You will never forget that the American people at 
the inauguration of the new era of the emancipation of labor placed 
the burden of leadership on the shoulders of two men of labor — 
Abraham Lincoln, the one, and the other, Andrew Johnson." 16 

In 1865, September, another address over the signature of Marx de- 
clared boldly: "Injustice against a fraction of your people having been 
followed by such dire consequences, put an end to it. Declare your 
fellow citizens from this day forth free and equal, without any re- 
serve. If you refuse them citizens' rights while you exact from them 
citizens' duties, you will sooner or later face a new struggle which will 
once more drench your country in blood." 

The National Labor Union of workers was organized at Baltimore, 
Maryland, August 20, 1866. There were sixty delegates and on their 
banner was inscribed "Welcome to the sons of toil from the North, 
East, South and West." An address was issued on cooperation, trade 
unions, apprenticeship, strikes, labor of women, public land and politi- 
cal action. As to the Negroes, the union admitted that it was unable 
to express an opinion which would satisfy all, but the question must 
not be allowed to pass unnoticed. The Negro worker had been neg- 
lected. Cooperation of the African race in systematic organization must 
be secured. Otherwise, Negroes must act as scabs, as in the case of the 
colored caulkers, imported from Virginia to Boston, during the strike 
on the 8-hour question. There should be no distinction of race or na- 
tionality, but only separation into two great classes: laborers and those 
who live by others' labor. Negroes were soon to be admitted to citizen- 
ship and the ballot. Their ballot strength would be of great value to 
union labor. If labor did not accept them, capital would use the Negro 
to split white and black labor, just as the Austrian government had 
used race dissension. Such a lamentable situation should not be al- 
lowed to develop in America. Trade unions, eight-hour leagues, and 
other groups should be organized among Negroes. 

Here was a first halting note. Negroes were welcomed to the labor 
movement, not because they were laborers but because they might be 
competitors in the market, and the logical conclusion was either to 
organize them or guard against their actual competition by other 


methods. It was to this latter alternative that white American labor 
almost unanimously turned. 

This was manifest at the second annual meeting in Chicago in 1867, 
where the Negro problem was debated more frankly and less success- 
fully. The President called attention to Negroes whose emancipation 
had given them a new position in the labor world. They would now 
come in competition with white labor. He suggested that the best way 
to meet this situation was to form trade unions among Negroes. A 
committee of three on Negro labor was selected. The Committee on 
Negro Labor reported that having had the subject under consideration, 
and after having heard the suggestions and opinions of several mem- 
bers of this convention — pro and con — they had arrived at the follow- 
ing conclusions: 

"That, while we feel the importance of the subject, and realize the 
danger in the future of competition in mechanical Negro labor, yet 
we find the subject involved in so much mystery, and upon it so wide 
diversity of opinion amongst our members, we believe that it is in- 
expedient to take action on the subject in this National Labor Con- 

"Resolved, that the subject of Negro labor be laid over till the next 
session of the National Labor Congress. . . ." 

The report of this committee brought a whirlwind of discussion 
which lasted throughout the whole day: 

"The Negro will bear to be taught his duty, and has already stood 
his ground nobly when a member of a trades' union. . . . 

"Did not like to confess to the world that there was a subject with 
which they were afraid to cope. . . . 

"This very question was at the root of the rebellion, which was the 
war of the poor white men of the South, who were forced by the 
slaveholders into the war. . . . 

"In New Haven, there were a number of respectable colored me- 
chanics, but they had not been able to induce the trades' unions to 
admit them. . . . Was there any union in the states which would 
admit colored men ? 

"The colored man was industrious, and susceptible of improvement 
and advancement. . . . 

"There was no need of entering on any discussion of the matter. 

"There was no necessity for the foisting of the subject of colored 
labor, or the appointment of a committee to report thereon. . . . The 
blacks would combine together of themselves and by themselves, 
without the assistance of whites. God speed them; but let not the 
whites try to carry them on their shoulders. . . . 


"Time enough to talk about admitting colored men to trades' unions 
and to the Congress when they applied for admission. . . . 

"Whites striking against the blacks, and creating an antagonism 
which will kill off the trades' unions, unless the two be consolidated. 
There is no concealing the fact that the time will come when the 
Negro 'will take possession of the shops if we have not taken posses- 
sion of the Negro. If the workingmen of the white race do not con- 
ciliate the blacks, the black vote will be cast against them.' 

"The capitalists of New England now employ foreign boys and girls 
in their mills, to the almost entire exclusion of the native-born popula- 
tion. They would seek to supplant these by colored workers. . . . 

"Little danger of black men wanting to enter trades' unions any 
more than Germans would try to join the English societies in Amer- 

ica " 17 

The whole question was finally dodged by taking refuge in the fact 
that the constitution invited "all labor." 

Sylvis, President of the International Labor Movement, spoke out in 
1868 on slavery: 

"Whatever our opinions may be as to immediate causes of the war, 
we can all agree that human slavery (property in man) was the first 
great cause; and from the day that the first gun was fired, it was my 
earnest hope that the war might not end until slavery ended it. No 
man in America rejoiced more than I at the downfall of Negro slavery. 
But when the shackles fell from the limbs of those four millions of 
blacks, it did not make them free men; it simply transferred them 
from one condition of slavery to another; it placed them upon the 
platform of the white working men, and made all slaves together. I 
do not mean that freeing the Negro enslaved the white; I mean that 
we were slaves before; always have been, and that the abolition of the 
right of property in man added four millions of black slaves to the 
white slaves of the country. We are now all one family of slaves to- 
gether, and the labor reform movement is a second emancipation proc- 
lamation." 18 

In the meeting of the National Labor Union in New York in 1868, 
there was no mention of Negroes, but in 1869 at Philadelphia among 
142 representatives, there appeared nine Negroes representing various 
separate Negro unions and organizations. This pointed a way out 
which labor eagerly seized. Contrary to all labor philosophy, they 
would divide labor by racial and social lines and yet continue to talk 
of one labor movement. Through this separate union, Negro labor 
would be restrained from competition and yet kept out of the white 
race unions where power and discussion lay. A resolution was adopted 
saying that the National Labor Union would recognize neither color 


nor sex in the question of the rise of all labor, and the colored laborers 
were urged to form their own organizations and send delegates to the 
next conference. The Negroes responded and declared that all Negroes 
wanted was a fair chance and no one would be the worse off for giv- 
ing it. Isaac Myers, their leader, said: "The white laboring men of the 
country have nothing to fear from the colored laboring men. We de- 
sire to see labor elevated and made respectable; we desire to have the 
highest rate of wages that our labor is worth; we desire to have the 
hours of labor regulated as well to the interest of the laborer as to 
the capitalist. Mr. President, American citizenship for the black man is 
a complete failure if he is proscribed from the workshops of the coun- 
try." 19 

In 1869, the General Council of the National Working-Men's Asso- 
ciation sent a letter signed by Karl Marx to the President of the Na- 
tional Labor Union. 

"The immediate tangible result of the Civil War was of course a 
deterioration of the condition of American Workingmen. Both in the 
United States and in Europe the colossal burden of a public debt was 
shifted from hand to hand in order to settle it upon the shoulders of 
the working class. The prices of necessaries, remarks one of your 
statesmen, have risen 78 per cent since i860, while the wages of simple 
manual labor have risen 50 and those of skilled labor 60 per cent. 
'Pauperism,' he complains, 'is increasing in America more rapidly than 
population.' Moreover the sufferings of the working class are in glar- 
ing contrast to the new-fangled luxury of financial aristocrats, shoddy 
aristocrats and other vermin bred by the war. Still the Civil War 
offered a compensation in the liberation of the slaves and the impulse 
which it thereby gave your own class movement. Another war, not 
sanctified by a sublime aim or a social necessity, but like the wars of 
the Old World, would forge chains for the free workingmen instead of 
sundering those of the slaves." 20 

Sylvis, President of the International Labor Movement, acknowl- 
edged this letter but said nothing about slavery, confining himself to 
attacking the monied aristocracy. 

Thus American labor leaders tried to emphasize the fact that here 
was a new element; new not in the sense that it had not been there, — 
it had been there all the time — but new in the sense that the Negro 
worker must now be taken account of, both in his own interest and 
particularly in their interest. He was a competitor and a prospective 
under-bidder. Then difficulties appeared; the white worker did not 
want the Negro in his unions, did not believe in him as a man, dodged 
the question, and when he appeared at conventions, asked him to 
organize separately; that is, outside the real labor movement, in spite 


of the fact that this was a contradiction of all sound labor policy. 

As the Negro laborers organized separately, there came slowly to 
realization the fact that here was not only separate organization but a 
separation in leading ideas; because among Negroes, and particularly 
in the South, there was being put into force one of the most extraordi- 
nary experiments of Marxism that the world, before the Russian revo- 
lution, had seen. That is, backed by the military power of the United 
States, a dictatorship of labor was to be attempted and those who were 
leading the Negro race in this vast experiment were emphasizing the 
necessity of the political power and organization backed by protective 
military power. 

On the other hand, the trade union movement of the white labor 
in the North was moving away from that idea and moving away from 
politics. They seemed to see a more purely economic solution in their 
demand for higher wages and shorter hours. Ira Stewart spoke for 
"men who labor excessively . . . robbed of all ambition to ask for 
anything more than will satisfy their bodily necessities, while those 
who labor moderately have time to cultivate tastes and create wants in 
addition to mere physical comforts." 21 But Stewart was not thinking of 
Negroes and only once barely mentioned them: 

"That we rejoice that the rebel aristocracy of the South has been 
crushed, that we rejoice that beneath the glorious shadow of our vic- 
torious flag men of every clime, lineage and color are recognized as 
free. But while we will bear with patient endurance the burden of the 
public debt, we yet want it to be known that the workingmen of 
America will in future claim a more equal share in the wealth their 
industry creates in peace and a more equal participation in the privi- 
leges and blessings of those free institutions, defended by their man- 
hood on many a bloody field of battle. . . ." 

Not a word was said of Negro suffrage and the need of the labor 
vote, black and white, if the demands of labor were to be realized. In- 
deed, at the very time that Southern labor was about to be enfran- 
chised, Northern labor realized that the right to vote meant little under 
the growing dictatorship of wealth and corporate control. It made lit- 
tle difference what laws were made as long as their interpretation by 
the courts and administration was dictated by capital. Some proposed, 
therefore, to fight their battle out directly with the employer, on the 
one battle ground of economic bargaining, with strikes, violence and 
secret organization as the methods. 

The National Labor Union veered from consumers' and producers' 
cooperation into a fight to control credits and capital and afterward 
through the Greenback party into an attempt to gain these ends by 
manipulating money. With falling prices and unemployment directly 


after the war, and rising prices and normal employment in 1868-1873, 
labor leaders became increasingly petty bourgeois and turned their 
backs on black labor. Farmers organized the Grange but not for black 
farm tenants and laborers, not for the struggling peasant proprietors 
among the freedmen. The Knights of Labor did not turn their atten- 
tion to Negroes until after 1876. 

There was, too, no rapprochement between the liberal revolt against 
big industry and Northern labor. Horace Greeley, a pioneer of the 
labor leaders, drew little labor support. The labor leaders went into 
the labor war of 1877 having literally disarmed themselves of the power 
of universal suffrage. And thus in 1876, when Northern industry with- 
drew military support in the 3outh anc [ refused to support longer the 
dictatorship of labor, they did this without any opposition or any in- 
telligent comprehension of what was happening on the part of the 
Northern white worker. 

Labor and Negro history illustrate these paradoxes. For instance in 
1869, there came up the celebrated case of Lewis H. Douglass, the son 
of Frederick Douglass, who worked in the government printing office 
and was not allowed to join the Printers' Union. Rather than face the 
question, the matter was postponed for three years and all sorts of 
excuses given. This and other cases led and practically compelled the 
Negroes to form not only separate local trade unions but to work 
toward a separate national organization. White labor was organizing 
to fight against the new industrial oligarchy, which was growing in 
the North; but it was this same oligarchy which in its own self-defense 
had forced the South to accept Negro suffrage, allying itself tempora- 
rily with the abolition-democratic movement in the North. 

This placed the white and black labor movement in a singularly 
contradictory position. The alliance of the black labor movement with 
the Republican Party was simply the political side of an economic 
fact. The Republican Party had given the black man the right to vote. 
This right to vote he was going to use to better his economic and 
social position. To oppose the Republican Party, then, was to oppose 
his own economic enfranchisement. 

On the other hand, the white Labor Party had allied themselves 
with the Democrats, chiefly because the Democratic Party had op- 
posed the "Know-nothing Party." The anti-foreign immigration move- 
ment was now the only organized political opposition to the great in- 
dustrial forces represented by the Republicans in the North. It repre- 
sented in some degree and voiced the radical demands of the West for 
low tariff and cheap money; but it was at the same time violently 
opposed to the new enfranchisement of black labor in the South. These 
two sets of facts alone put white and black labor in direct opposition, 


and because their leaders did not altogether understand the basis of 
this opposition, it made the attempt to achieve a common platform 
for white and black workers exceedingly difficult, especially when the 
anomalous position of the Northern Negro worker was taken into 

Negro leaders, naturally, resented the attack made by white labor 
organizations on the Republican Party. Nor did they understand how 
far this new Southern labor government was dependent on Northern 
industrial reaction and capitalistic oligarchy. Northern labor was 
equally ignorant and did not dream that in the South the Republican 
Party was par excellence the party of labor. 

This matter came to a crisis at the meeting of the National Labor 
Union in Cincinnati in 1870. A number of Negroes were present, in- 
cluding Isaac Myers, Josiah Weirs and Peter H. Clark. John M. 
Langston wanted to speak, but the labor leaders opposed him because 
he was a Republican politician. The motion to grant him the privilege 
to speak was lost by a vote of 29 to 23. There was excitement. Weirs 
remarked that a Democrat had been allowed to speak and that he 
regarded the Republican Party as a friend of the workingman. Myers 
lauded the Republicans amid cries of approval and disapproval. Sena- 
tor Pinchback, colored leader of Louisiana, was also denied the privi- 
lege of the floor. Nevertheless, in the resolutions adopted after much 
debate, it was said, "The highest interest of our colored fello